Our kids are catching up to America’s in fat

2011-02-12 15:50

Picture your child’s daily routine. Does it look anything like this? Children are driven to school or use public transport every morning. For lunch they eat doughnuts and pies and when they get home they gaze at the TV for several hours while snacking on chips and sweets. For supper, they might have KFC or McDonald’s.

This is the daily routine of 25% of the child population. As a result, one in four South African children is overweight, according to the Discovery Healthy Active Kids ­Report Card for last year.

Deepak Patel, clinical consultant at Discovery Vitality, says: “We have one of the fastest growing rates of obesity and are catching up with America quite quickly.”

According to Patel, this trend can largely be attributed to the lack of BMI (Body Mass Index) screenings and health checks.

BMI is the measure of someone’s weight in relation to their height and can be used to evaluate the ­associated risk of chronic diseases, especially heart disease.

Often, BMI screenings are not done early enough, when doctors can intervene, says Patel.

A common perception in South Africa is that obesity is a “disease of wealth” but Dr Craig Nossel maintains that “the poor in this country are at great risk for obesity, which relates to access to healthy food”.

Globalisation also plays a role: diets in poorer communities are becoming increasingly westernised.

Deepak added: “At a social level, there is also a problem with how people perceive weight. Parents have a distorted view of a healthy child – that a fat child is a healthy child. For example, parents get ­excited when young children gain weight. But after two years of age, a BMI should be done.”

Another common problem is said to be stunted or poor growth at an early age, which puts children at a greater risk of becoming ­overweight in the future.

Poor growth at an early age, lifestyle, economic and societal changes over the years are all ­factors ­contributing to the growing trend of obesity.

Adult obesity is also a growing concern. More than 50% of black South African women are ­overweight, according to ­Patel.?

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