Monday, 5 August 2013

OBESITY in South Africa!?


61 % of all South Africans are overweight, obese or morbildly obese!
Who would have thought this, as Africa is mostly mentioned in one breath with starvation, HIV and inhumane living conditions.
South Africans are getting fatter. We’re placed third in the world obesity ranking according to        Compass Group Southern Africa’s 2011 report, and the first developing country on the list. We’re a game changer in the global obesity epidemic, proof that fatness doesn't have to be a first world problem.
This has surprised me and will probably surprise you with no end. Compiling this blog actually gives me a lot of new insight into my chosen home country, a lost of surprising facts and a lot to think about and a lot of pleasure.
The SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) recently reported that almost a third of black South African women are obese, followed by coloured, white and Indian women, a quarter of whom follow suit. Interestingly, 18 % of white South African men are obese, a fact that tips the demographic scales of gender and race and their link to obesity. While women are usually more inclined to be overweight, the alarming percentage of obese white men in SA calls for further scrutiny, among others into the beer and braaivleis culture.
Our ancestors’ hunter-gatherer instincts are long extinct. Globalisation and the miraculous take-away has made us lazy, lulled by knowledge that food is a mere phone call away and a microwave meal only a few minutes from served. Rapid urbanisation sees people moving from rural areas in search of inner-city thrills – and cuisine.
Last year, Alice Randall published an article in The New York Times entitled ‘Black Women and Fat.’
‘Many black women are fat because we want to be, came the punch-line, as readers in all six continents fell off their chairs. In fact, the ideal of the large black woman is a plus for the men who love them, and who want nothing more than for their wives to maintain their curvy physiques. 
Our very own state president and some of his wives are the most distinguished example and living proof.

Unfortunately the people who are supposed to uphold the peace and prevent crime don't seem to be able perform these tasks and fail dismally, because they are too fat to move fast or move at all.

Sleep tight everybody!
In SA, there’s a KFC in almost every suburb, selling buckets of chicken dripping in batter and oil. Samoosas, vetkoek and fried chicken, all Mzansi delicacies, all high in saturated fat, add to our nation’s expanding waistline. Children snack on Nik-Naks on their way home from school. Parents, themselves with little understanding of the value of nutrition, are unable to pass information on to their children.
 With cost and convenience priorities in the current economic climate, South Africans appear more concerned about their pockets than the size of their waistbands. Many do not understand food labels, or simply ignore them. Rising obesity rates lead to insurance premium hikes and the long-term health effects put pressure on the state health system. Our country simply can’t afford to be this fat.
More alarmingly, South Africa is home to a population of health denialists.
The SAIRR study showed a scant understanding of healthy eating habits. Most considered themselves healthy, completely unaware of the repercussions facing them in later years in the form of heart attacks and strokes. Only 47% recognised the critical importance of physical exercise and unsurprisingly, healthy foods were perceived to be more expensive than their unhealthy counterparts.
The WHO suggests that healthy indigenous foods be promoted as they tend to be cheaper and more culturally acceptable than new foods. This is true for traditional Chinese cuisine, for example, a welcome departure from the less healthy, more commercial ‘western’ style options. However, in the South African instance, traditional fare has become hybridized thanks to the introduction of westernised crops. The old food ways, negatively associated with poverty and social lowliness, are abandoned for higher-status junk food.
Traditional African staples of starch, sugar and meat certainly aren't conducive with a low-calorie diet. I don’t want to imply that traditional food is harmful or devoid of nutritional value; however, the statistics show that it’s not sustainable as an exclusive source of nutrition.
 The concept of traditional (South) African food is a shaky one, rooted in heritage and memory. It is the very stigma of lowliness that has caused a migration from traditional cooking toward the popularised western fast-food diet. So how do we balance tradition with nutrition? How can we rethink our attitudes to food?

We need to talk about obesity. We need to understand why so many of us are fat, to re-evaluate what we’re eating and why we’re eating it. The implementation of awareness programmes in schools and communities, widespread dietary education and healthy eating plans and workshops to promote healthy cooking methods are crucial. As for the availability of unhealthy food and drink in public places like airports, train stations, university campuses, schools and hospitals, it’s time to cut down.
Obesity is an urban pandemic and public health issue that has complex roots in culture, economic status and education. Our junk food nation is a noxious blend of apathy, calories and bad habits, the product of a fickle eating culture. The sooner we can come to a common understanding of what a healthy diet actually means, the quicker we can break our nation’s harmful eating.
Guardian, Thursday 9 September 2010 17.11 BST 
Despites its image as a nation that loves sport, a survey has found that 61% of South Africans are overweight. Photographs: Philipp Guelland/AFP/Getty Images
It is renowned for surfing, rugby and the great outdoors, but South Africa is among the fattest countries in the world, another survey has found as well.
The rainbow nation is "eating itself slowly to death", according to the drug and healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which says 61% of South Africans are overweight, obese or morbidly obese.
Article on CNN website:
Gugulethu, South Africa (CNN) -- In restaurants in this township outside Cape Town, South Africa, barbecue grills crackle with chains of sausage, marinated chicken quarters and boulder-sized slabs of beef and lamb.
Organ meats -- livers, lungs and hearts -- are sold in bustling marketplaces.

In the city, customers order fried chicken, meat pies, biltong (air dried, spiced meat strips)), French fries, sausages called boerewors and burgers, a combination of Western and South African fast foods.
Along with growing prosperity, a culture of high-fat foods has taken hold in urban South Africa. In a country where malnutrition is one of the major causes of children's deaths, South Africa is also experiencing an increase in obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The country has enjoyed economic growth in recent years . But growth also comes with risks.
"We're in transition from poverty to economic development," said Dr. Thandi Puoane, associate professor at the University of the Western Cape School of Public Health.
The influx of people to urban areas has caused major dietary shifts that are more starchy, sugary, fatty and salty and feature bigger portions, according to South African research.
In townships, predominantly black communities located outside cities, being overweight does not carry negative connotations.
"Black South African women are not keen on weight loss, because in this era, people think you are thin, you have HIV -- that's the thinking," said Tandi Matoti-Mvalo, a dietitian.

And health experts worry that many people aren't receiving messages about proper diet and exercise.
"Because of the advertisements, people drink Coke and eat KFC and think it's hip and cool," Puoane said. "I haven't seen advertisements for broccoli and beans.

Black African people have the lowest rates of cardiovascular diseases, but there are some concerns about changing diets and habits.
"People in the townships, they feel they need to have meat on the plate daily," said Puoane. "They end up eating chicken fat and skin, they want that taste. People really, really want to have meat on their plate."
It's a departure from maize, porridge and beans.

Tembela Mawela holds a platter of meat from Mzoli's, a restaurant and butcher shop.
At Mzoli's, a popular braai (barbecue) spot, Tembela Maweka, who lives in Kuils River, near Cape Town, waited for his platter of meat.
"When you have beers or whiskey, you have to have meat," he said. "You need that fat."
When asked whether he worried about the health implications of a high-fat diet, he paused.
"It might make effects in the body, like in the heart because of fat," Maweka said.
His remedy: "You eat, and drink and exercise."
A few miles away from the restaurant, traders in an outdoor marketplace sell organ meats such as stomachs and lungs. These have higher fat content but are more affordable, said Matoti-Mvalo.
Much like food deserts, described in American urban settings, residents of these areas face a vicious combination of the lack of money and access to nutritious foods.
"They cannot afford healthy food," Puoane said. "They cannot afford chicken breast. They end up buying chicken skins." Chicken breasts are stripped to be sold in affluent markets, and the discarded skins are sold in the townships, she said.
"Accessibility to fresh fruit and vegetables is a little bit difficult," Puoane said. "People have to spend money to get to a minibus taxi, go to the supermarket to buy healthy food. There's less accessibility to healthy food."
Dumile Klaas and Zandise Mtzang enjoy an afternoon snack in Gugulethu, near Cape Town.
On a mid-afternoon in Gugulethu, three men grabbed a snack at a food stand.
With a knife, they carefully sliced the meat from sheep legs, salted it and then wrapped it in bread. The platter for three with a bottle of Coca Cola cost about $6.
When asked whether they ever worried about their diet and health, they smiled.
"We might get a heart attack," Dumile Klaas joked.
"This is meat, and we like it," said Zandise Mtzang with a shrug. "Do you smoke? Well, that's dangerous, but people still smoke."
Gesturing to what was once a pile of meat, he said "It's the same”
So, what really seems to be happening in South Africa 2013: the poorer you are, the fatter you get and the richer you are, the fatter you get too.