A study by the University of of Warwick Medical School determined that over one in five women in Nigeria were found to be overweight or obese with this statistic increasing among demographics with improved social and economic indicators. The obesity level was directly correlated to urbanization, as 36.4% of women were overweight compared with 18.8% in more rural districts. The population group analyzed consisted of data from the 2008 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey representing 28,000 women aged between 15 and 49 years old of which 20.9% were recorded as being overweight or obese.
“Obesity is now not just a western problem, but an African one as well” said Dr Ngianga-Bakwin Kandala, one of the study authors. “By becoming wealthier, better educated and urbanized regions of Nigeria are gaining the attributes we would more commonly associate with western societies. This has brought both a change in lifestyle and diet that is reflected in finding that educated, wealthy women are much more likely to be obese than those living in more rural, traditional areas.”
Professor Saverio Stranges the study co-author commented on urbanization: “Urbanization, and the shift towards what we would consider to be more western habits, appears to come hand in hand with a more sedentary lifestyle and change in diet. More people have cars and drive where they might have walked in the past. The rise in internet usage within the cities sees more people sat down for prolonged periods, both at home and at work.”
“This physical inactivity is worsened by a less balanced diet. An over reliance on energy dense processed foods can be highlighted by the growing presence of fast food outlets and the knock on effect is reducing the intake of staple, low calorie foods.”
“The worry is that Nigeria, like many Sub-Saharan African countries, is facing a major public health challenge with a rising number of overweight adults, whilst large segments of the population face problems associated with under nutrition. This dual burden will mean combating both malnutrition and the risks associated with obesity, such as cardiovascular disease,” said Professor Stranges.
Ngianga-Bakwin Kandala, Saverio Stranges. Geographic Variation of Overweight and Obesity among Women in Nigeria: A Case for Nutritional Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (6): e101103 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101103