Many Ugandans getting fatter

October 13, 2014

Poor nutrition and growing levels of obesity are taking a toll on the health of Ugandans, experts warn, as an increasing number of people consume fast food especially since American fast food chain KFC opened shops in the country last year and lead sedentary lifestyles that are common with folks residing in Kampala and Entebbe. In recent years, the number of overweight adults jumped from 8 percent in 1999 to 30 percent in 2012, according to the country’s Ministry of Health’s nutrition report. About half of those overweight adults suffered from chronic obesity. However, many Ugandans believe the survey does not offer a comprehensive view of the problem, and that the numbers could be even higher. Some independent researchers estimates that 10 million Ugandans are either overweight or obese, compared to 6 million five years ago.The prevalence of obesity is not yet that high. However, given the country’s small population of about 36 million and the growing numbers, it’s a cause for concern. An elderly man who has lived in Kampala since his childhood in 1950s told me earlier this year that high-fat foods, imbalanced diets and a lack of physical activity as the main culprits. Only about 25 percent of Ugandans eat enough vegetables and fruit, while only 40 per cent are engaged in sufficient physical activity, various health studies reveal.Consumption patterns have also changed among the population.

Last week, the country’s head of state President Yoweri Museveni asked the country population to stop feeding on wild animals meat to help stop spread of deadly Ebola virus and Marburg.That was an indication Ugandans eat a lot of meat, fast food and not enough fruit and vegetables.According to the sexagenarian,Ugandans used to eat at home, but now they often eat outside hence the reasons why eating food joints are doing extremely well. However, because good food is expensive at restaurants, they tend to eat junk food and that is best explained by high numbers at fast food restaurants like KFC and Java coffee shop.Uganda’s annual economic growth of more than 6 percent has allowed millions of people to enter the middle-income class and gain access to developed world amenities, including fast food. The Uganda Health report,which is published by the Ministry of Health and Uganda Health Marketing Group known as UHMG, shows that obesity is more prevalent in households that spend more per capita, including among those with higher education and those who live in cities. Lack of exercise and poor diet are among the risk factors that trigger cardiovascular diseases, according to a health experts your blogger spoke to.

According to research, increased body mass index which is a simple height-for-weight measure is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and some cancers.Few years ago,Uganda’s Ministry of Health reported that non-communicable diseases such as stroke, hypertension and diabetes have replaced communicable diseases as the leading causes of death in most parts of the country. The same study also showed that Ugandans who suffered from malnutrition as children are more likely to be obese when they grow up.High and volatile food prices lead not only to hunger and under-nutrition, but also to obesity, a University of Makerere research said in 2012, as Ugandans opt for cheaper, less nutritious food to feed their families. When poor Ugandans with some disposable income try to cope with high and increasingly volatile food prices, they also tend to choose cheap food that is high in calories but without much nutritious value, the study concluded.But according to another research I read recently, rising food prices do not necessarily lead to an increase in obesity.In Uganda, healthy foods remain affordable to almost all citizens.Vegetables and fruit are relatively cheap as well but the problem is that Ugandans simply choose unhealthy diets out of lack awareness or ignorance.Your blogger thinks there need to be more vigorous campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles, including the need for exercise and balanced nutrition.Despite all that, there are good reasons to visit Uganda ‘Pearl of Africa’

Contador Harrison