Durban - South African women are among the fattest people in Africa, according to global research released today by The Lancet medical journal.
Almost seven out of 10 are overweight, and 42 percent are obese. South African men fare better, 39 percent of men being overweight and 13.5 percent classified as obese, according to their body mass indexes (BMI).
BMI uses a formula based on a person’s weight and height. A BMI score of over 25 is considered overweight, while over 30 is considered obese.
Don’t be fooled by pictures of lean women dancing at some exotic pacific island with white sands and turquoise seas. Those islands are home to some of the fattest people in the world.
Fat is the norm on the south Pacific islands of Tonga and Samoa, where more than 80 percent of people are overweight. In Tonga, 67 percent of women and 52 percent of men are also obese, with similar figures in Samoa (69 percent of women and 45 percent of men).
The Middle East, Central America and the Caribbean are also vying for the heavyweight title.
More than half the women in Kuwait and Qatar are also obese, while well over three quarters of all adults are overweight.
The people of Libya, the US, Mexico and Egypt are also battling with obesity.
Using multiple data sources, the researchers number-crunched the most accurate global figures on fat – and unsurprisingly concluded that humans had got much fatter since the 1980s. Obesity in children has increased by a massive 47 percent, while in adults this has increased by 27.5 percent in the last 30 years.
Obesity in developing countries has leapt from 8 percent to 12 percent, and the journal notes that “no countries had significant decreases in obesity in the past 33 years”.
Kerry Cullinan, Health-e News
Nations in the Middle East and North Africa, Central America and the Pacific and Caribbean islands reached staggeringly high obesity rates, the team at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle reported in the Lancet medical journal.
The biggest obesity rises among women came in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Honduras and Bahrain. Among men, it was in New Zealand, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The richest country, the United States, was home to the biggest chunk of the planet's obese population - 13 percent - even though it claims less than 5 percent of its people.
The UN’s World Health Organisation says obesity is a complex problem fuelled by the availability of cheap, fatty, sugary, salty, high-calorie “junk food” and the rise of sedentary lifestyles. It is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, diabetes, arthritis and certain cancers. Chronic complications of weight kill about 3.4 million adults annually, .
The researchers said obesity - once a malady of rich nations - now grips people of all ages, incomes and regions, with not one country succeeding in cutting its obesity rate.
“Two-thirds of the obese population actually resides in developing countries,” said Marie Ng, a global health professor who was one of the researchers.
ONE WOMAN’S STORY
Johannesburg - At 30 years old, Mpumie Twala from Daveyton weighed 115kg, was a size 44 and had had a heart problem since childhood.
Now 38, she says she realised in her late twenties that her eating habits were out of control.
“I was eating and drinking soft drinks constantly. It hit home when I’d see those healthy gogos on TV talking about their health and I could not even touch my toes,” she stated.
“I said to myself, it had to stop. So I joined the gym. Back then, walking 10-15 minutes on the treadmill was a great achievement.”
But exercise was only half the solution, Twala found. She did not lose any weight between September 2006 and 2008 despite going to gym regularly.
Twala says that people generally know what what they have do to lose weight but find it difficult to start.
In tackling her weight issue, she knew she needed to attack the root of the problem – exercise, yes, but combined with eating less and eating for her blood type.
“I took my control back and have a brand-new life. I began a group called Slenders for Life where I and 11 others encourage each other to lose weight,” she said.
Vuyo Mkhize, The Star