Health study paints bleak lifestyle picture

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pretoria - A significant proportion of women from the age of 35 years are obese, while more than 20 percent of all women are overweight, says the Demographic and Health Survey's (DHS) recent data on overweight and obesity in adults.

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on Monday shared the DHS data during the opening of a nutrition research centre in Cape Town where he said obesity increased with age until about 35 years in both men and women and declined from about 55 years.

"For ethnic groups, the data showed that obesity is highest in black women and white men.

"The prevalence of underweight in adults is far lower than the prevalence of overweight and obesity in males and females," said Dr Motsoaledi.

The Human Science Research Council (HSRC) for the Study of the Social and Environmental Determinants of Nutrition to has been opened to study the underlying causes of chronic lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The centre aims to investigate the integration of the molecular and social aspects of nutrition, to enhance the quality of life of the country's population through excellence in nutrition research and its dissemination.

Motsoaledi said the reference Food Consumption Surveys together with the DHS have helped shape government policy in a wider context but more specifically in relation to micronutrients which culminated in the mandatory micronutrient fortification of staple foods as well as the prevention of the diseases of lifestyle.

He noted that despite the remarkable progress in defining the prevalence of a wide spectrum of nutritional disorders in the country, government policies and interventions need to be more focused and custom-designed if they are to be more successful.

"Overweight is highest in formal urban areas and in 1-3 year-old children. This is an indication that the nutrition transition is underway and that under nutrition and associated infectious diseases should not be the only health concern for policy makers," he said.