.With one in five adults, one in 10 children and teenagers in Nigeria and other African countries projected to be obese by December 2023, the Nigerian Heart Foundation has urged the Federal, state and local governments to urgently scale up awareness on obesity and overweight by setting out a day to amplify the campaign against rising cases of the condition and mortality.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its latest report s warned of rising trends of obesity and overweight, saying that, only robust measures will reverse the trend.
Briefing journalists in Lagos at an event to mark the 2022 World Obesity Day, with the theme: “Everybody Needs to Act” the executive director of NHF, Dr Kingsley Akinroye, expressed worry about the rapid increase in obesity and the risk factors.
He said while NHF was committed to promoting awareness on ‘walkability” and healthy diets, it is time for governments at all levels to take action.
Akinroye stated that governments, particularly, the local government being the closest to the people should urgently create the needed awareness to avert needless deaths at the grassroots level.
He said: “The Federal Government and the state government should come on board; the local government should come onboard and declare a day for World Obesity to sensitise people on the need to focus on what they eat. We must declare a day when no car will go through a local government: Everybody must walk. There must be no car on that day. We are looking for that day, and that is being done in Kenya and Nairobi every year.
He pointed out that local governments were very powerful and we feel that local government will take this up: declare a day for World Obesity in which they will walk and encourage people to take fruit.
Akinroye noted that the country can save a lot of funds being spent on the provision of healthcare if obesity is adequately checked.
“So many unhealthy lifestyles of Nigerians affect the structure and blood vessels in the body, saying the biggest blood vessel remains the heart.
“You are what you eat. If you decide to eat food nutrients that are very high in salt and fat, you will pay for it. We have to be careful in what we eat and we should pay particular attention to it.
“The blood vessel will pay for it and the number one indices are that the blood pressure will go up. Such an individual is a candidate for having a health attack, stroke, damaged kidney, kidney failure and other risks.
According to him, the more physical activities people were, thehealthier they were likely to be, and the less sitting down they do and the more the longer they live and have a better life.
Speaking, the chairman, NHF planning committee on World Obesity Day 2022 Commemoration, Mrs Dolapo Coker said that obesity was being influenced by several factors such as genetic, metabolic, cultural, environmental and socio-economic.
Coker, who is the former president, the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, said that obesity subjected individuals to a higher risk for serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and falls.
“Obesity can cause long-time devastating illness. In Nigeria, available evidence shows that obesity is gradually increasing, especially among children and youth.Urban resident Nigerian children and youth are noted to be more overweight and/or obese than their rural counterparts,” she explained.
She added that nutritional transition was characterised by a shift from traditional diets to more high economy diets (high salt, low fibre, high trans-fat, high glucose); and less engagement in active transportation and physical activities at home and in school associated with childhood obesity and overweight among urban resident children and youths in Nigeria.
“Obesity is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke, cancer and road traffic accidents,” Coker said.
According to her, prevention of obesity involves individuals and policymakers and this includes restricting the marketing to children of food and drinks high in sugar, salt and fats as well as improving physical activities in schools and environments.
Coker called for restrictions on sugar-sweetened beverages and high fatty meals, and provision for improved access to affordable home-prepared foods.
On his part, the chief executive officer, Consumer Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative (CAFSAN) Professor Olugbenga Ogunmoyewa called for regulation of food intake, said Nigerians must change their eating lifestyle and walk more.