Ballooning obesity among South Africans – new study

South Africa has the highest overweight and obesity rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with seven out of 10 women and four out of 10 men carrying significantly more body fat than is deemed healthy, according to a new study published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Irene Labuschagne, a dietitian at the Nutrition Information Centre at the faculty of medicine and health sciences of Stellenbosch University, said different studies and surveys presented different numbers but the reported prevalence of obesity in South Africa was very alarming.

The risk for developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis and chronic kidney disease increases when a person’s weight-to-height ratio, also called a body mass index (BMI), exceeds 23.

For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined using weight and height to calculate the BMI, which for most people correlates with the amount of body fat. An adult with a BMI of between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight and BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity.

A 2011 health survey conducted by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline pronounced South Africa “the third-fattest nation in the world”. A Medical Research Council study found that six out of 10 South Africans are overweight or obese – almost double the global rate of nearly three out of 10.

The department of health has made alleviating the obesity crisis a strategic goal.