Chubby tummies are a health time bomb for SA women
Researchers call for urgent nutritional education to 'halt the escalating epidemic' linked to unhealthy diets
More than one in three young South African women who took part in a new study have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Physiologists from the University of Limpopo said the reasons included chubby waists and a chronic shortage of fibre in their diets.
“This is a cause for concern given the increased benefits that people are likely to have if they consume this nutrient,” said Machoene Sekgala, Kotsedi Monyeki and their colleagues.They studied 624 adults who live on the Botswana border in deep rural areas of western Limpopo.
“High dietary fibre intake lowers adiposity since it suppresses appetite,” the University of Limpopo researchers reported in the journal Nature, adding that it had numerous other health benefits.
Low fibre intake in the 306 men and 318 women they studied – all aged between 18 and 30 – was significantly associated with high blood pressure, one of the conditions linked to metabolic syndrome.
Other conditions associated with the syndrome are abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high serum triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein. Anyone with three out of the five conditions has metabolic syndrome.More than half of the women in Limpopo had a waist circumference of 80cm or more, the measurement set by the International Diabetes Federation as risky. Less than one in 20 men had a waist measurement of more than 94cm, the federation’s recommendation for males.
The researchers said other African studies had adopted different baselines but regardless, “accumulation of body fat, particularly central obesity” played a pivotal role in metabolic syndrome.
“It is important to be mindful of other risk factors ... namely unhealthy diets and risky lifestyles,” they said. “The consumption of high-fat and high-sugar diets, especially by those who have financial constraints, is undesirable.”
While 36.8% of women in the study were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, only 8.6% of men had it, and the researchers pointed out that there were also dietary differences between the sexes.
Women ate more carbohydrates, added sugar, fibre and saturated fat, while men ate more total fats. Men’s main health risk was high blood pressure.
“Metabolic syndrome already appears to be entrenched in the rural communities in South Africa,” they said, calling for urgent nutritional education to “halt the escalating epidemic”.