According to World Health Organization (WHO), obesity affects almost 1 billion individuals worldwide, including 650 million adults, 340 million teenagers, and 39 million children. This figure is still rising.
Also in the research, about 167 million people – adults and children – will be overweight or obese by 2025, putting their health at risk.
In Africa, one in five adults and one in ten adolescents and teens in ten high-burden African nations would be obese by December 2023 if no strong steps are taken to reverse the trend.
The prevalence of obesity according to the organisation among adults in the ten high-burden nations would range from 13.6 percent to 31 percent, while it will range from 5 percent to 16.5 percent among children and adolescents.
“Africa is facing a growing problem of obesity and overweight, and the trends are rising. This is a ticking time bomb. If unchecked, millions of people, including children, risk living shorter lives under the burden of poor health,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “But we can resolve the crisis, because many of the causes of obesity and overweight are preventable and reversible.”
Africa is dealing with an increase in the number of overweight youngsters. In 2019, 24 percent of the world’s overweight children under the age of five lived on the continent according to WHO.
According to WHO, being overweight has been linked to severe disease and the requirement for hospitalisation. It can affect almost all of the body’s systems. The heart, liver, kidneys, joints, and reproductive system are all impacted.
It can cause a wide range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) according to WHO, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and stroke, as well as cancer and mental health problems. Obese people are also three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for COVID-19.
While no data for Africa is currently available, a study published in the Journal of Infection and Public Health estimated that 2.2 million of the 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths documented globally by the end of February 2021 were in nations where more than half the population is overweight.
WHO indicated that obesity is fueled by dietary habits such as the consumption of high-energy foods, sedentary lifestyles, and a lack of physical activity, all of which are linked to increased urbanisation and changing modes of transportation in many nations.
Obesity and overweight according to WHO are on the rise in many nations due to a lack of effective policies in critical sectors such as health, agriculture, urban planning, and the environment to support healthy lifestyles.
WHO recommends a number of priority measures to combat obesity and overweight, including government regulations such as mandatory limits on food sugar content; fiscal policies, such as taxing sugar-sweetened beverages.
Food marketing regulations, such as mandatory nutrient declaration by manufacturers; promoting healthier foods for older infants and young children; creating safe, active transportation and recreation facilities; and reinforcing public health services, should also be given closer attention.
“The key to preventing obesity is to act early, ideally even before a baby is conceived. Good nutrition in pregnancy, followed by exclusive breastfeeding until the age of 6 months and continued breastfeeding until 2 years and beyond, is best for all infants and young children,“ said Dr Tedros, Director-General of WHO, in his World Obesity Day 2022 speech.