Cape Town is South Africa’s healthiest city with the highest number of healthy-weight people who buy the most vegetables and fruit.
This was revealed at the launch of 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,” said Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Discovery Vitality Wellness.
One of the most important factors contributing to the obesity epidemic is the change in dietary patterns characterised by the increased consumption of sugar, salt, fat and animal products.
One of the most important factors contributing to the obesity epidemic is the change 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.
According to Gabriel Eksteen, nutrition science programme manager at the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, nutritional labeling of foods is still a problem, with people finding it difficult to understand what they are consuming.
“We need to talk in ways that people understand. Food labels are not easy to decipher, especially when you look at the nutrition label and you want to see how much salt you are eating and you cannot even find the word salt in there because they talk about sodium,” said Eksteen, adding that “I think we need to be much better at telling people what is in that food and how is that food going to affect them”.
‘Impact of obesity’
The impact of obesity on individual health, globally, is significant. The estimated 4.4 million people who die each year as a result of being overweight or obese is now higher than the number of worldwide deaths linked to being underweight.
In addition to health concerns, obesity impacts the global economy, with R16.4 trillion being lost each year – roughly equivalent to the impact of smoking or wars globally. The economic impact of obesity in South Africa is estimated to be R701 billion each year.
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 on body weight.
Commenting on the pricing of healthy foods Helen Kean, Senior Economist at Econex said that making price adjustments is not straightforward and involves different stakeholders.
“Whilst we could encourage the lowering of prices in particular healthy goods, it is also possible that this could end up hurting certain industries. From an economic perspective we would want to balance our economic objectives and make sure that we move towards a solution in a way that satisfies everyone,” she said.
Dr Sundeep Ruder, a clinical endocrinologist at Life Fourways Hospital, said that the intention of a lot of food companies was not to serve people, but rather indulge in greed and profit.
“If we can change the intention … we will have a healthier nation, and profits will improve because you are going to have more productive people,” said Ruder