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Tackling increasing obesity in Nigeria

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By Mercy Kelani

Majority of Nigerians living with this condition face daily stigmatisation.

According to a 2023 report by World Obesity Atlas and released by the World Obesity Federation, Nigeria is not prepared enough to tackle the increasing number of non-communicable diseases (NCD), many of which are caused by obesity. Research has it that majority of Nigerians living with this condition have endure their pains worsened as they face daily body-shaming and stigmatisation by the society rather than empathy. This is the plight of 50 years old Oge Edeh who was diagnosed with this condition at 27 years old.

World Health Organization (WHO) affirms that obesity is the accumulation of fat in an excessive and abnormal manner that poses a risk to human health. As stated by the global health body, a body mass index of more than 25 is said to be overweight, while more than 30 is obese. WHO stated that the situation is now an Epidemic issue as over four million people die every year as a result of being obese or overweight in the 2017 global burden of diseases.

It is necessary to ensure an increase in nutrition education.

Still seeking solution to her obese condition, Oge expressed worry about her condition as she is not getting any younger. Her worry heightened due to the associated risks of her condition such as Hypertension and Diabetes. Experts have asserted that obesity is increasing among Nigerian adults and children due to excessive exposure to sedentary lifestyles and Western diets. It was observed that excessive intake of sugar-sweetened beverages are also responsible for the rise in non-communicable diseases like cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and the obese condition.

A Professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ngozi Nnam, frowned against the ridiculing of obese people, attributing the rise of this condition to the intake of fatty foods without sufficient consumption of vegetables and fruits. Majority of the non-communicable diseases in the world such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension and Cancer are connected to obesity. Resultantly, it is necessary to ensure an increase in nutrition Education to create awareness for people on appropriate dietary habits.

Improvement of childhood nutrition has seen significant progress.

The report by World Obesity Atlas revealed that out of 183 countries on the NCD-Obesity Preparedness Rankings, Nigeria ranks 180. The ranking system takes into consideration the existing health system responses to NCD of countries and their commitment to enacting prevention policies of the condition. An article titled “Estimating the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Nigeria in 2020: a systematic review and meta-analysis”, published by PubMed Central, showed that about 12 million Nigerians were obese in 2020, with a prevalent number of women.

Mary Mgbekem, a Professor of Nursing Science at the University of Calabar, Cross River State, said that lack of sufficient sleep and rest likely to cause obesity through overeating. Dr. Jennifer Chudi-Emokai, a medical practitioner, said environmental and lifestyle preferences contributes to the prevalence of the condition. She added that the improvement of childhood nutrition has seen significant progress due to consumption of traditional diets and high intake of vegetables and cereals, with low consumption of animal foods.

Physical activity intervention and a combined diet will prevent obesity.

Also, Nwabumma Asouzu, a Dietitian-Nutritionist at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, said that obesity also affects the social and emotional health of adolescents. Obese people are often victims of discrimination, negative stereotypes, and social marginalisation. These social challenges lead to low self-esteem, negative body image, and low self-confidence in obese children which could hamper their academic performances. However, Asouzu highlighted that physical activity intervention and a combined diet carried out in the community is efficient at ensuring the prevention of the condition.


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