OBESE: South African women have the highest obesity rate (42%) in sub-Saharan AfricaPicture: REUTERS
Unhealthy modern “quick-fix” diets, addiction to mobile phones and social media, a lack of exercise and bad eating habits are to blame for burgeoning obesity levels, say experts.

And according to a recent study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), South African women have the highest obesity rate (42%) in sub-Saharan Africa.

About 14% of men and almost 9% of SA children are also considered obese, the study shows.

Topping the list of obese nations is Egypt at 35%, while the lowest rates are in Bangladesh and Vietnam at 1% of adults.

South Africa has an average 30% obesity rate among adults - about 10 million people.

The study, by the University of Washington in the US, is the most comprehensive research on global obesity to date. It found that just over 30% of the world’s adult population is either obese or overweight leading to widespread health problems and millions of premature deaths.

“Globally, more than two billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to obesity, and the number of people dying as a result of obesity in on the increase.”

Overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) or weight to height ratio greater than or equal to 25 and lower than 30 while obese is defined as having a BMI equal to or greater than 30.

Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 showed that obesity contributes to health risks such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis and chronic kidney disease.

If anyone left it unchecked, obesity may lead to a decline in life expectancy.

SA health and wellness expert Vanessa Ascencao says all South Africans should review their lifestyles and diets and follow a plan aimed at good health.

She suggests that people “follow a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and lean protein, choose quality health supplements, eliminate toxins, sugar and processed foods,” she said.

To stay in shape, Ascencao says that in addition to a healthy lifestyle, people could use healthy beverages such as green tea that help suppress hunger, support weight loss and increase satiety.

Other shocking figures recently released by the NHS revealed that nearly half of young adults in Britain are overweight or obese.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that nearly 3 million young people between age 16-24 years are either overweight or obese and the numbers were escalating with an increase of about a million more than two decades ago.

According to researchers the youngsters are increasing their chances of developing "a cacophony" of devastating diseases early in life, ranging from diabetes to cancer.

Dr Mike Osborn, of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that “being overweight or obese can cause a whole cacophony of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, fatty liver disease and cancer”.

According to Osborn if a person became obese at 70, that is one thing, but if they became obese at 14 - and stayed that way - that is far worse due to the prolonged impact over their lifetime.

Professor Lord Ian McColl, a former surgeon, also said that overweight and obese young people may well end up living shorter lives than their parents, most of whom were slim in their youth.

“Already, some obese children under10 have diabetes. This crisis is bankrupting the health systems. It's killing millions and costing governments billions,” he said.