Staying Healthy In South Africa

Doctors: Think Twice When Online

Cape Town has the highest number of people who are a healthy weight, plus they purchase the most vegetables and fruit, when compared with South Africa’s other major cities…

This is according to the Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index 2017, which presents the latest insights on weight status (measured by Body Mass Index and waist circumference) and food purchasing behaviour of nearly half a million Vitality members in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.

“Insights from the Vitality ObeCity Index 2017 allow us to better understand the amount of sugar and salt in the foods we are actually buying, as well as fruit and vegetable consumption,” says Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness.

The impact of obesity on individual health, globally, is significant

The number of people who die each year as a result of being overweight or obese (4,5 million) is now more than the number of worldwide deaths linked to being underweight. In addition to health concerns, obesity impacts the global economy. R16,4 trillion is lost each year, which is roughly equivalent to the global impact of smoking or wars. The economic impact of obesity in South Africa is estimated to be R701 billion each year.

One of the most important factors contributing to the obesity epidemic are changes in dietary patterns characterised by the increased consumption of sugar, salt, fat and animal products. Ultra-processed food contains high percentages of most of these products. In South Africa, sales of ready-made meals, snack bars and instant noodles increased by 40% between 2005 and 2010. Fast food consumption continues to grow, negatively impacting our weight.

Weight status and health outcomes are related

Says Nossel, “We see a direct correlation between weight status and health outcomes. People with an unhealthy bodyweight incur a direct increase in healthcare costs of approximately R4 400 per person per year. We also know that the purchase of healthy foods has a positive impact on BMI and the associated risks of developing chronic diseases of lifestyle.” Discovery data shows that members who purchase healthy foods have a 10% lower BMI compared to those who purchase unhealthy foods. The same purchasing behaviour is associated with up to R2 500 lower health costs per year.

What is happening in South Africa?

Obesity in South Africa is increasing faster than the global average. National surveys paint a disturbing picture, with the number of overweight and obese men and women increasing since the last national survey four years ago.

Image source: Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index 2017

Weight status

  • Cape Town scores best, with 53,5% of Capetonians having a normal weight status.
  • Johannesburg and Durban came in at second and third with 52,0% and 51,8%, respectively.
  • Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein have the worst weight status, with 48,8% of residents having a healthy weight status in both cities.

With regard to changes since 2014, Cape Town is the most improved city, with an increase of 7% in healthy weight status, while Port Elizabeth is the least improved city with only a 4% shift in weight status.

In the past three years, from 2014 to 2017, Vitality members improved their weight status by 5,5%.

Doctors: Think Twice When Online

Image source: Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index 2017

Fruit and vegetables

  • Cape Town purchased the most portions of fruit and vegetables compared to other cities, followed by Johannesburg and Bloemfontein.
  • Port Elizabeth and Durban purchased the least portions of fruit and vegetables.
  • Durban purchased 34% less fruit and vegetables compared to Cape Town, the winning city.

A summary of the results:



Written by How South Africa

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