Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FACT CHECK; Not Illegal to Be Overweight in Japan; Not Needed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FACT CHECK; Not Illegal to Be Overweight in Japan; Not Needed

Article excerpt

Byline: Carole Fader

Times-Union readers want to know:

Is it true that a Japanese law makes it illegal for citizens of that country to be overweight?

Well, it is true that the country requires that companies and local governments measure the waistlines of citizens between the ages of 45 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population, The New York Times reported.

Those exceeding government limits - 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks - and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight, the Times reported.

If necessary, those people are steered toward further re-education after six more months.

The hope is that the campaign will encourage healthy lifestyles and keep diabetes, heart disease and strokes in check.

Still, it is not a crime to be fat in Japan, as most of these viral posts state. Japanese citizens can't be fined or imprisoned for being overweight.

In January 2008, Japan passed the "Metabo Law," named after metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions - increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels - that occurring together can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, reported.

"If you have metabolic syndrome or any of the components of metabolic syndrome, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems," the law stated.

To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population, the government imposes financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets.

With the new law, for example, Matsushita, a company that makes Panasonic products, has to measure the waistlines of not only its employees but also of their families and retirees, the Times reported. …

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