Africa faces up to obesity epidemic

Some parts of Africa are best known for charity appeals to combat famine, but the continent is now facing the opposite problem: an obesity epidemic.

“In terms of Africa, obesity is a growing problem. Some countries are really experiencing high levels,” said Shane Norris, head of the new African Centre for Obesity Prevention, which launched in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Although statistics are scarce, the World Health Organisation estimates that 12.7% of African children will be overweight or obese by 2020, compared with 8.5% in 2010. Obesity is linked to increased risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions.

Norris argued that unless the issue was addressed soon, obesity levels on the continent would become as high as those in Europe and North America – an unintended side-effect of Africa’s economic growth.

“Some countries are already experiencing quite high levels of obesity, others aren’t,” he said. “[But] the trend is that more and more African countries, as they economically develop, will face obesity-related challenges.

“We can’t stop economic growth and we wouldn’t want to, but how can we put other things in place to counter the potential ill-health effects of the economic development?”

South Africa, the continent’s most developed country, is leading the trend. Last year, local papers branded it “the fattest nation in sub-Saharan Africa” after figures showed that 26.8% of the 55 million-strong population were obese, costing the government R23 billion (£1bn) in prevention campaigns and combating obesity-related illnesses.

Moji Musa, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, said South Africa’s obesity problems could be traced to a change in diet from traditional, nutrient-rich foods such as maize meal and vegetables to dense, high-calorie fast food staples such as fried chicken and chips. Increased prosperity has made such foods accessible to more of the population.

Despite its impact on health, obesity is not considered a health priority for communities affected, who are more concerned with infectious diseases such as HIV and Aids and tuberculosis, Musa’s research shows. Cultural factors play a role, too: in many societies, weight gain is viewed as a sign of affluence or happiness.

“Coming from Nigeria specifically, I am very conversant with that sort of attitude where bigger is better,” Musa said. “If you do put on a bit of fat you are seen as being comfortable. But if you start losing weight after having been a robust individual, it’s like a signal that’s something’s wrong. Maybe she’s sick, maybe she’s depressed, maybe her husband’s left her. It all boils down to changing the cultural mindset.”

Obesity in Africa disproportionately affects women, and researchers have yet to fully understand why. Initial studies suggest it may have something to do with different levels of physical activity, or may be related to hormone levels.

The obesity prevention centre is based in Soweto’s Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital, the third largest in the world, and aims to prevent the obesity crisis getting even worse.

“South Africa is already far along this obesity trajectory, with many other African countries following along that course,” Norris said. “What we can learn from South Africa can be relayed into preventative measures for other African countries.” – Guardian 

Related Posts
Zimbabwe Top Clinical Psychologist Says Dementia Under-Diagnosed
HARARE — Clinical psychologist Dr. Sekai Nhiwatiwa says family members should be on the lookout for common behavioral changes that affect senior citizens who suffer from different forms of dementia. Dr. Nhiwatiwa ...
‘You don’t get to kill us and tell us how to feel’
A white Chicago policeman was charged with murdering a black teenager on Tuesday, hours before authorities released a graphic video showing the youth walking away from officers as he is ...
Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa
HARARE — Zimbabwe is bracing for an industrial action Friday by state doctors and nurses after the cash-strapped government only offered them $2 per day as transport fee after failing ...
UT Medical sends team to Zimbabwe
On Saturday, nine members of UT Medical Center's trauma team left Knoxville to take their knowledge and experience overseas. The team, which includes three trauma nurses and two trauma surgeons, embarked ...
AIDS to end by 2030?
The United Nations AIDS agency (UNAIDS) says the goal to get HIV treatment to 15 million people by the end of 2015 has already been met. The landmark figure was reached ...
Harare City Council Health Services director Dr Prosper Chonzi
HARARE - Harare City Health Director Dr Prosper Chonzi, the city’s medical aid society chairman Shasekant Jogi and Councillor for Ward 3 Panganai Charumbira have appeared in court on allegations ...
Precious Lives Lost as Blood Prices Too High for Poor Zimbabweans
HARARE—Faced with worsening economic challenges and growing unemployment, Zimbabwe could be losing lives unnecessarily daily due to the high cost health care, including the steep cost of blood, which remains ...
Econet goes for broke and trumples on civil liberties
MEDIA and human rights groups have criticised Econet Wireless and its financial services unit, Steward Bank, for what they described as “bully-boy and draconian behaviour” towards the press. This was after ...
Robert Mugabe’s latest health woes: All is not well for the demagogue
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's spokesperson, George Charamba, has laughed off reports that the long-time leader had abandoned the Southern African Developmental Community summit in Swaziland due to ill health. New Zimbabwe reported ...
Air Zimbabwe seeks $1bn for recapitalisation, hunts for partners
HARARE,– Zimbabwe is seeking strategic partners for its struggling national airline Air Zimbabwe, which requires at least $1 billion to buy new aircraft and service its debt, transport minister Obert ...
Zimbabwe Top Clinical Psychologist Says Dementia Under-Diagnosed
‘You don’t get to kill us and tell
Cash Strapped Zimbabwe Offers Doctors $2 for Transport
UT Medical sends team to Zimbabwe
AIDS to end by 2030?
Harare City health chief Dr Chonzi arrested
Precious Lives Lost as Blood Prices Too High
Econet goes for broke and trumples on civil
Robert Mugabe’s latest health woes: All is not
Air Zimbabwe seeks $1bn for recapitalisation, hunts for

Arts & Entertainment

Arts & Entertainment

Drake ends Sheeran’s Billboard 200 reign, smashes streaming record

27th March 2017 Staff Reporter 0

Drake ended Ed Sheeran’s two week reign atop the Billboard 200 album chart on Monday, selling a monster 505,000 copies of his new album “More Life,” according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan. The Canadian rapper, […]

Arts & Entertainment

Ex-Utakataka bassists to launch album in Mzansi

25th March 2017 Staff Reporter 0

RONNIE Mudhindo’s musical journey is not complete without the mentioning of his early days with the late Tongai “Dhewa” Moyo and Utakataka Express band. The reference involves both sweetness and sourness. Utakataka fans may remember […]