Obesity – a threat to your family’s health

By admin
19 October 2015

A childhood obesity “tsunami” is fast approaching African shores. The time has come for parents to wake up to the health and financial risks associated with overweight children, and to change family lifestyles for good.


At just three years of age she weighed 35 kg and was diagnosed as the youngest person ever with Type 2 diabetes. The story of the unidentified Texas toddler made headlines around the world but the situation may be closer to home than many South Africans would like to admit.

Research studies indicate SA is the most obese nation in southern Africa and medical authorities are justifiably concerned. Up to 10 percent of the country’s annual health budget is spent treating obesity-related illnesses of which type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents is a major concern.

The SA Medical Research Council found that 60 percent of overweight children aged five to 10 have at least one risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases, while 25 percent have two or more risk factors. Sanlam medical adviser Dr Jack van Zyl says parents often believe their children will “outgrow” their overweight bodies but childhood obesity requires dedicated intervention. He says the correct approach should focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as responsible nutrition and physical activity.

Health and financial costs of obesity

Dr Van Zyl warns that the younger obese people are the more harmful the excess weight is. Parents need to be aware of the health and financial risks associated with overweight children and change their lifestyles permanently, he says. “When you put on excess weight as a child you risk developing health complications at an earlier age. While genetics play a role, health concerns are directly related to children’s high sugar and salt intake.” Obese people are also more accident-prone

because their balance is poorer and excess weight prolongs recovery after injury or illness. All of these factors increase medical costs and from an insurance point of view, excess weight also attracts higher premiums. An overweight child presents a health risk, and is therefore also an insurance risk. Body mass index (BMI) is a major underwriting consideration in insurance policies.

Lifestyle tips for parents

  • Exercise – children will copy your behaviour.
  • Offer children water or fresh fruit juice. Sugar-laden drinks, such as fizzy drinks, are a major cause of obesity. A 330 ml can of carbonated soft drink contains seven teaspoons of sugar (35 g). Bought fruit juices have a high sugar content – 250 ml contains six teaspoons of sugar. Limit energy drink intake. The energy contained can only be burnt by endurance sports: a 500 ml energy drink contains seven teaspoons of sugar.
  • Don’t buy unhealthy snacks because your children will be more likely to consume them.

Obesity alert for kids and adolescents!

  • Forty-two million children under the age of five are either overweight or obese, according to 2013 WorldHealth Organisation statistics.
  • They’re at a greater risk of developing conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
  • They face possible early onset of puberty and psychological problems like low self-esteem.
  • They’re also at risk of health complications like asthma.

Protect your family against risks. Go to www.sanlam.co.za. 

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