Obesity and poor nutrition plague SA

Obesity and poor nutrition in South Africa is a real concern, especially amongst the youth. These are the findings of youth specialist agency YDx through its BratTrax® and YouthTrax® research  reports. 

This research worryingly shows that youth are more commonly indulging in diets of junk and fast food with little focus on balanced nutrition. This is rapidly becoming a nationwide trend in South Africa amongst children between the ages of seven to 18 across both upper and lower income groups. (BratTrax 2009/10 and YouthTrax 2008/9)

A healthy diet and a balanced nutrition can be formulated at an early age, and influenced heavily by parents, an area which can be seen to be an ongoing battle in many households. Schools play a big role in the continuation of unhealthy dietary choices, with advertising also creating confusion in terms of youth’s perception around daily balanced diet through their product claims. 

“BratTrax® and YouthTrax® studies are undertaken by us each year” notes Jane Lyne from YDx,  “these give insight into the SA youth in order to  provide up to date and relevant information. Diet and nutrition is a key focus”. 

61% of SA is obese

South Africa is currently the third most obese country in the world and 61% of South Africans are overweight or morbidly obese (Health24).  With one in  four children in South Africa struggling with weight issues, the future looks bleak. 

Primary school children in the upper LSM’s questioned as part of the research mostly took balanced lunch boxes to school, but this trend seemingly ends as learners head into high school with the tuck-shop being a more attractive option. Mothers questioned, felt it was during this time that they had the least control over their children’s diet ,with children between the ages of 16-18 receiving an average of around R60 per week for tuck. 

They also felt that they were constantly fighting against their children’s desire to eat ‘treat’ or ‘junk’ food whilst trying to provide them with a balanced meal and healthier food options. 

The studies further revealed that eating disorders were prevalent in schools as teens battled the daily stresses and demands of life. A further contributor to a deteriorating attitude towards a healthy diet. 

The flip side of the coin revealed through BratTrax®, is a high interest in technological leisure options amongst youth as opposed to traditional exercise. Children noted that leisure time is limited  with The most popular activities include mall-based activities (girls), technology (PlayStation, Internet) for boys as well as cellphone activities (MXit) and social networking (facebook) for older respondents. 

Curbing the obesity issue starts with parents.  Families need to be educated on healthy food choices well as everyday vs occasion or treat foods.  Parents need to be provided with a range of healthy yet tasty lunchbox ideas and taught how to read labels and understand nutritional choices in order to effectively change their children’s eating and snacking behaviour. 

For more information visit

(Press release, May 2012)

Read more:

Why junk food tastes so good


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