Excessive weight gain and obesity have largely been seen as major problems limited to western countries. However, a recent study suggests that despite several economic challenges, food shortages and other problems in the continent, Africans appear to be getting fatter too, leading to higher rates of diabetes.
This was the finding of a new study examining trends in obesity and diabetes across Africa from 1980 to 2014.
The study was published in the June, 2017 International Journal of Epidemiology, by the Africa working Group of the Non Communicable diseases risk Factor collaboration.
The authors sought to answer the following question:
Is the rate of obesity among Africans increasing?
In order to answer this important question, the researchers pooled data from studies done in several African countries including South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. The studies involved 1.2million participants for obesity over a 40-year period.
According to the authors, the average Body Mass Index (a measure of body fat) was found to have increased from 21kg/m2 to 23kg/m2 in men and 21.9kg/m2 to 24.9kg/m2 in women. Although, the average BMI were within normal range, the rising trend should be a source of concern because it suggests that the number of overweight and obese individuals may be increasing.
This was reflected in a related survey among 1062 professionals in Abuja, Nigeria. In that study 2 out of every 3 persons were overweight or obese suggesting that an obesity epidemic is emerging.
One of the main health conditions associated with weight gain is diabetes.
In view of these, the authors also examined sought to answer the question:
Is the burden of diabetes rising in Africa?
After reviewing studies involving 182000 participants, the authors reported the rates of diabetes had increased consistently from about 3% to 8% in both men and women.
Being overweight or obese is associated with serious health risks such as:
- Sleep difficulties
- Heart disease
Why are Africans getting fatter?
People generally become fat because of eating more than they can expend
However, there are other reasons linked to the worrying pattern of weight gain that has occurred in the past 40 years.
There may have been upsurge in the consumption of refined and processed food high in fat and sugar.
In the past 40 years, the lifestyle and eating habits of Africans have been shaped by certain factors. For instance, the numbers of eateries and fast food joints have risen steadily in the past two decades. Many of these eateries offer meals and pastries high on calories and low on nutrients. In urban areas, many persons prefer to eat out to reduce the stress of cooking.
Africans now move less because of technology, car ownership, and access to transportation. In the past, most household chores such as washing, cooking involved a lot of physical activities. Now, several homes have access to machines that facilitate such chores and encourage a sedentary lifestyle.
Africans are drinking alcoholic and sugary beverages more than ever. Sugary and fizzy drinks, fruits juices and energy drinks have largely replaced fruits and vegetables in some African homes.
People are generally sleeping less. Inadequate sleep may affect weight loss. According to National centre for Global health and medicine, persons who sleep less are more likely to gain weight. Unfortunately, mobile phones and the media regularly disrupt our sleep.
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