Lard help us: SA is the tubbiest nation in Africa
And while we face an epidemic of lifestyle diseases, the rest of the world is rapidly catching up in the obesity stakes
South Africa is the flabbiest country on the continent.
An estimated 28% of us are overweight and 31% are obese (the obesity rates for men and women are 14% and 42% respectively), making us Africa’s tubbiest nation.
It means we are contending with an epidemic of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, which collectively kill 43% of South Africans.
So we should be paying particularly close attention to the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, where researchers who compiled the latest data warned on Wednesday that the rest of the world is hot on our heels.
By 2045, almost a quarter of the global population will be obese and one in eight will have type 2 diabetes, a form of the disease that generally hits in adulthood as a result of being overweight.
“These numbers underline the staggering challenge the world will face in the future in terms of numbers of people who are obese, or have type 2 diabetes, or both,” said researcher Alan Moses, of Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk.“As well as the medical challenges these people will face, the costs to countries’ health systems will be enormous.”
Moses insisted it was not too late to turn the tide of fat. “But it will take aggressive and co-ordinated action to reduce obesity, and individual cities should play a key role in confronting the issues around obesity.”
The first African city in Novo Nordisk’s Cities Changing Diabetes programme, which has spread to 15 metropoles across the world, is Johannesburg.
A survey of 2,600 adults by the local academic partner, the University of the Witwatersrand, found:
• 29% were overweight and 37% obese;
• 4.9% live with undiagnosed diabetes;
• 24% had a family history of diabetes; and
• 69% of people with diabetes had abnormally high blood sugar.Other research presented at the Vienna conference reveals the growing burden of obesity, and suggests plant-based foods can help:
• Eating a diet high in plant-based foods and low in animal-based foods may protect against obesity in middle-aged and elderly populations, even if a vegetarian or vegan diet is not strictly followed, according to a team from Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam. The researchers followed 9,641 people over 26 years and found that those who had higher scores on the plant-based diet index had a lower body-mass index.
• A vegetarian diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains is not only good for you, it’s also more affordable than other healthy diets if you’re buying online, according to findings in the US from the Nestlé Research Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland. On average, following a vegetarian diet costs about $2 less per day on Amazon Grocery and Gourmet Food than the Mediterranean diet or a “healthy” US diet.
• Even 11-year-old boys with a healthy weight have become less fit over the past 20 years, according to researchers who tested boys in Spain in 1996 and again in 2016. “Our results suggest that measuring body-mass index alone may not be enough to monitor children’s future health, and reinforce the need for promoting physical activity, especially aerobic fitness, to improve the capacity of the heart and lungs and better post-exercise recovery,” the Malaga University researchers said.“We know that most children do not take part in enough physical activity, compared to current World Health Organisation recommendations of at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day such as swimming, football, or dancing.”
• People who are successful in losing weight and keeping it off have different behavioural and physiological responses to food than people with obesity and their lean counterparts, according to new research by the University of Birmingham and the University of Amsterdam. They said a reduced physiological response to highly palatable foods such as pizza – measured by heart rate and saliva production – may help explain why some individuals are able to keep weight off in the long term.
• Young people who watch one extra junk-food advert a week (over the average of six) consume an additional 350 calories in foods high in salt, sugar and fat every week, according to a UK study involving more than 3,300 subjects aged between 11 and 19. The study, by Cancer Research UK, is one of the first to look at online TV viewing in such a systematic fashion, and adds to growing evidence that TV and streaming adverts can influence young people’s unhealthy diets.