Obesity Disease

Don’t be a Couch Potato

Approximately one child in five South African children is overweight and this can expose them to a number of health risks as they grow older

Most South Africans follow a sedentary lifestyle unaware of the dangers of being overweight or obese.

With approximately one child in five South African children overweight and exposed to a number of health risks as they grow older, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases has specified obesity as a disease in its own right.

The South African Comparative Risk Assessment Report that was conducted by the Medical Research Council revealed that over 50% of South African adult females and 17% of children up to age nine are overweight or obese.

With approximately one child in five SA children overweight and exposed to a number of health risks as they grow older, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases has specified obesity a disease.

According to the study almost eight million South Africans aged 30 years and older carry a risk for a chronic lifestyle disease due to high cholesterol and 5.5% of adults 30 years and older have diabetes.

Government is putting in every effort to promote a healthy lifestyle; Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has set a target to radically reduce Non-Communicable Diseases by 10% by 2020.

The Heart Foundation explains that being obese or overweight can increase the risk of developing health problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, certain cancers, arthritis, gallstones, sleep apnoea, slower healing and an increased susceptibility to infections and psychological problems where people may feel insecure because of their obesity.

Notably Type Two diabetes is becoming more prevalent in South Africa as the number of overweight people increases. This is because diabetes is often associated with obesity and a study has showed that people with a wide stomach girth show a particularly high risk of developing the disease.

At least 150 minutes of exercise a week or a reduction of between 5% and 7% of your body fat can lower your risk of developing diabetes by more than half. While losing between 5% and 10% of your body weight and doing some exercise can substantially lower your risk of getting heart diseases and as well as cancer.

During the National Nutrition Week in October people were encouraged to use the newly developed Food Guide and the recently updated Guidelines for Healthy Eating to learn more about the best choices for healthy eating plans.

Now in its 14th year, National Nutrition Week has been planned jointly by the Department of Health, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa and the Consumer Education Project of Milk SA.

The Guidelines for Healthy Eating are food-based instead of nutrient-based and were developed using an evaluation of food availability as well as compatibility with the country’s cultural food intake patterns. Both publications have undergone extensive consumer testing.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation being overweight is usually the result of energy imbalance in which one’s energy intake has been greater than the energy used over a number of years. The foundation points out that there are a number of factors associated with obesity:

  • Eating too much of the wrong types of food (such as takeaways and animal fats).
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Family history - if parents are overweight then children often follow the same pattern.
  • Pregnancy - the more pregnancies a woman has, the more likely she is to put on weight.
  • Negative emotions, which can cause some people to eat as a comfort mechanism.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends the following lifestyle changes for people wanting to lose weight or live healthily:

  • Regular exercise.
  • Increase your intake of fibre to make your stomach feel fuller for longer.
  • Eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit daily.
  • Use healthy cooking methods such as steaming, boiling and grilling.
  • Limit the amount of extra fats in your diet, such as butter, cream, mayonnaise, dressings and oil.
  • Limit your salt intake because salt makes your body retain water.
  • Drink between six to eight glasses of water a day.

For more information: www.heartfoundation.co.za