I think most people saw the rather startling photograph of an obese woman squeezed into a skimpy top that allowed fat bulges to balloon over the straining material, which was published in a number of newspapers at the end of May (see right).
Luckily it was a rear view and the feelings of the person who posed for this photo will hopefully have been spared. The accompanying headline was just as harrowing: “SA’s the fattest sub-Saharan African nation – study” (Malan, 2014).
Malan (2014) goes on to report that a study published in The Lancet, one of the leading UK medical journals, has found that we as a nation have the highest overweight and obesity rates in sub-Saharan Africa, which equates to 7 out of 10 women and 4 out of 10 men being overweight or obese.
Endless bad press
It is sometimes downright disheartening to read anything that refers to South Africa’s expanding waistlines. In the present study, other countries in sub-Saharan Africa were found to have much lower rates of female obesity, for example: our neighbours Namibia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe have female overweight/obesity rates of 19,8%, 24,1% and 33,5%, respectively.
These are all less than half of the South African figure of 70% of women who are overweight, of which 40% are classified as obese.
The comparison is even less flattering if we compare our female population to the women of African countries such as Eritrea where only 4,7% of adult females are obese and Ethiopia where the percentage drops to 1,8%. Malan (2014) points out these figures are respectively 10 and 20 times less than in South Africa