Health officials in Thailand are trying to get young monks to go on a crash diet as increasing amounts of them are becoming obese.

Studies in recent years have found that 45% of Thai monks were obese. Others have said that obesity rates in novice monks were 4% higher than in other boys their age.

This is largely because, given that monks are not allowed to eat after midday, novices are stocking up on foods that are high in sugar and calories in the morning, according to the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.

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Their choice of afternoon refreshments – including sweet milk, sweet green tea, and soft drinks – aren't exactly slimming either.

Their food choices are creating other issues too. According to a National Health Commission Office (NHCO) report in 2019, monks' deep-fried diets mean they experience diabetes, eye issues, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis more than the general population.

Now, the NHCO wants to tackle the problem in young monks, and has teamed up with the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences of Chulalongkorn University and six other organisations to do so.

Prateep Thanakijcharoen, the NHCO secretary-general, said: “We want them to understand food nutrition and maintain a healthy routine instead of choosing only food they prefer such as sweets, snacks or deep-fried food.”

The focus is on better educating novice monks in order to curb rates of obesity in a group of 33,000 students, which is wise given that the 2019 report identified ill-education on healthy eating habits as a key issue.

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According to the Bangkok Post, monks will be educated via four methods – infographics, 10 books on nutrition and exercise, an educational app and an animated graphic platform.

These are set to be introduced in December.

According to those running the project, using technology such as an app will make the experience fun for students, offering them rewards and incentivising them to get healthy.

The project has also ordered mobile health units to monitor monks’ health by making regular visits to temples.

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