CAP: Enough evidence to proof the negative effects of late-night meals

Photo credit: NST file pic

The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) welcomes the announcement by the Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly to study carefully CAP’s call for abolishing 24-hour licenses for eateries and restaurants. He has stated that he would consult the stakeholders before making a decision.

Abolishing 24-hour licenses does not mean closing down restaurants and eateries. What we are calling for is to regulate their operating hours to avoid late-night eating.

While consulting the stakeholders is a good move, the main consideration in arriving at a decision should be protecting the health of the Malaysian public.

Studies have shown that having a heavy meal late at night will affect our circadian rhythm which also regulates our sleep and hunger hormones, and making it very hard to sleep afterwards as our system is still digesting food.

A new study by Harvard Medical School investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that when we eat significantly impacts our energy expenditure, appetite, and molecular pathways in adipose tissue. The study found that eating four hours later makes a significant difference for our hunger levels, the way we burn calories after we eat, and the way we store fat in our bodies.

The report stated that previous research on the issue had shown that late eating is associated with increased obesity risk, increased body fat, and impaired weight loss success. The study by Harvard Medical School investigators wanted to understand why this is happening.

Obesity afflicts a large section of our population and studies have shown that it contributes to the onset of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer and other conditions.

Recently the Deputy Health Minister said that there are nearly five million Malaysians at risk of contracting pre-diabetic or diabetic conditions. Pre-diabetes has become a growing public health concern due to its potential to progress to diabetes.

The annual direct healthcare costs from diabetes in Malaysia is about RM4.4 billion, 227 per cent higher than cancer (RM1.3 billion) and 11 per cent higher than cardiovascular disease (RM3.9 billion). The huge sum of RM 9.65 billion was spent annually to deal with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.

Even though shortening the operating hours for eateries would not completely solve the NCD issue in Malaysia, it would considerably reduce late-night eating among Malaysians leading to their improved health status and reduction in NCDs.

The argument that 24-hour food outlets create jobs for Malaysians is a red herring to confuse the issue. Most of them employ cheap foreign labour, which together with the construction and manufacturing industries adopting such practices, has a depressing effect on our workers’ wage levels. That’s the reason for our workers seeking employment outside the country.

We urge the Minister to invite NGOs dealing with health issues to the stakeholder consultation to give their views on the subject matter.



Mohideen Abdul Kader
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)

Press Statement, 26 April 2024