Fast Foods and Wider Waistlines. Will the Future Generation Require Bigger Sized Clothes?

In Nutrition on October 12, 2012 at 2:39 am

Just recently, we wrote about undernutrition in Chad. This time, we will be spotlighting the reverse case, Overnutrition. Urbanization on the African continent is slowly leading to an adoption of fast foods. Fast foods are mainly high energy dense foods which have been linked to weight gain and obesity in the West. A 1998 study of 13,089 men and women in South Africa classified 29.2% of the men and 56.6% of the women as either overweight or obese. In the same study, Urban women were found to have the highest rates of obesity.

In contrast to the West, Fast Food Chains enjoy an “aspirational” image on the African continent. For instance, when a branch of KFC opened its doors in Nairobi last year, customers were willing to queue up for 90 minutes for the fried chicken.  African nations are becoming an emerging market for these Fast Food Chains. Recently, MacDonald, the US fast food giant, announced that in 2011, 22% of its profits came from Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Are we going to see wider waistlines in the future generation?

  1. this raises the question for thought that “are we sure we wand the food scarcity to be replied to in Africa by endorsing the Western fast food nutrition habits?”.. .Clearly no , how do we make sure the resoponse to malnutrition repsect ” traditional cuilinary habits” which are less causing obesity

  2. Thanks for your comment Modi. I believe, education plays a key role in food choices

    • I absolutely agree with your comment saying that education is key.In most of those countries there are no clear nutrition guidelines. Moreover these populations have the misconception that whatever comes from the western world is better than theirs.

  3. Education is very important and less expensive than dealing with the health problems that comes from an unhealthy lifestyle. Africa has the benefit of being able to see what fast food and a sedentary lifestyle has done to the West and hopefully not follow in their footsteps. To counteract the thought that anything from the West is better a focus on the positive aspects of African culture needs to be reinforced. The lifestyle of those in the West is creating significant, expensive health issues and is not an example to be followed.

  4. Thank you for setting up this discussion. Kristin you are right in saying that the Western dietary habits are not an example to follow and being an African and a dr in the US I shudder to think of having the same obesity and heart disease problems in Africa. June appropriately mentioned that education is key. My concern however is how do we apply that education. From the country I come from, people don’t envy the pictures of obese people in the West they see on tv/internet. For the most part they laugh at the fact that people eat too much and get obese and get heart disease etc. But even with that knowledge people still want the ‘American dream’ or the Western culinary habits. There seems to me to be a big desire in developing nations to want to live the western lifestyle even though people know the adverse effects of the lifestyle. What kind of education do we think works. There is a general trend in developing nations especially in Africa were most cultural beliefs that embody good dietary aspects are being brushed off due to other negative aspects like gender inequality and general hygiene problems with some practices. The challenge in my mind is how best to advocate for the good healthy cultural foods without being entangled in other aspects of different cultures or tribes and how to ‘deglorify’ in a sense the real appetite people have for the western diet. I am not sure if we can win this dietary choice battle because people will choose what they want to eat and what is cheapest for them. Probably we also need to look at other issues like physical activity. Should we make more efforts to address physical inactivity in the urban settings since urban dwellers are not as active, in general as rural folk. Definitely in the next 20 years Africa will be dealing more with obesity, heart disease, diabetes and all the other chronic diseases than we are today and more dialogue and action is essential to limit the impact of this dietary issue.

  5. Thanks for sharing your views on this topic, Tinashe. I do agree that there is need to change the orientation of the African populace regarding Western food. However, could you expatiate on how local diets could impact gender inequality and hygiene?

    Incorporating physical activity is also essential and should be promoted among urban dwellers. In my experience, most people do not see physical activity as a necessary part of a healthy life. People’s perception of exercise is to loose weight and not to stay healthy. Also, the perception of overweight and obese does vary in the African Continent as what may be regarded as overweight is often seen as normal weight on the continent.

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