Quick facts

The prevalence of overweight and obesity among women in South Africa rose from 56 per cent in 1998 to 68 percent in 2016, while the prevalence of underweight in women decreased from six to three per cent. Globally, obesity increased in the last four decades to 14.9 per cent in women and 10.8 per cent in men.

Globalisation and trade liberalisation influence the prevalence of overweight and obesity. An analysis of food imports in 172 countries from 1994 to 2010 has shown that the level of sugar and processed food imports is significantly associated with a rise in average BMI.

Snacking prevalence (i.e. occasions of snacking); the energy density of snack foods, and its contribution to total daily energy intake is increasing. Snacks contribute to about 20 to 25 per cent of total energy intake in countries like the United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom (UK). This shift towards an increase in the frequency of eating meals and snacks away from home and the proportion of food budget spent on away from home foods has coincided with the increasing prevalence of obesity.

The prevalence of obesity and other diet-related chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and some common cancers, is increasing worldwide. The Global Burden of Disease data suggest that, by 2025, 72.3 per cent of NCD¬ related illness and deaths will occur in low- and middle-income countries.

A systematic evaluation of dietary consumption patterns across 195 countries showed that the leading dietary risk factors for NCD mortality are diets high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids; each accounting for more than two per cent of global deaths.

Leading international experts and professional health organisations, i.e. the WHO, recommend increased consumption of plant-based food, such as vegetables and fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and locally-produced, home-prepared foods. These experts include the WHO, EAT Lancet Commission, American Heart Association and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

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