DIETS have made headlines this year with experts debating what South Africans should or shouldn’t be eating. One thing they do agree on is that South Africans need to lose weight.

“South Africans eat too much, drink too much alcohol, and don’t move enough,” said Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, chief executive of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSF) ahead of National Obesity Week, marked from today to Sunday.

Alarmingly, South Africa’s increasing waistlines are not restricted to adults as the trend is becoming more common in children too. One in four girls and one in five boys between the ages of 2 and 14 years are overweight or obese, according to the HSF.

“Overnutrition is a concerning and increasing problem among South African children and adolescents,” said Dr Celeste Naude, a registered dietitian and researcher with Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Evidence-based Health Care.

According to her, there is high probability that an overweight teenager will become an overweight or obese adult.

Obesity is associated with diseases such as type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer, and the country’s obesity problem is starting to reflect in its mortality statistics.

In 2012, heart disease and diabetes each killed more South Africans than HIV, with diseases related to high blood pressure not far behind. This is according to a Statistics South Africa report released last month.

Research shows that South Africans eat excessive amounts of salt, fats, sugar and refined grains and skimp on whole grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy. Part of this is fuelled by South Africans’ moves towards more “Western diets” of processed foods.

About half of men and almost two-thirds of females are physically inactive, said HSF. – Health-e News Service.

alarming facts

South Africa is the fattest country in sub-Saharan Africa and ranks among the world’s top 20 overweight countries.

Seven out of 10 South African women weigh more than what is considered healthy, and four of the seven are obese.

Three out of 10 South African men are overweight or obese.

One in four girls and one in five boys between two and 14 years are overweight or obese.