Sunday 15th December 2019
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Nigeria battling growing obesity numbers

Obesity – a condition that is tied to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer – used to be an issue affecting mainly western countries but, in modern-day Nigeria, it is proving to be a nationwide epidemic.


The World Cup Scorecard on Obesity, which was conducted based on data from the 32 countries that took part in the prestigious soccer competition, found that although Nigeria was one of the countries with the lowest obesity rate, it actually has the highest rate of growth in overweight and obese people. It is therefore important for the government and individuals alike to take measures to keep the obesity rate down.

Is Obesity Nigeria’s Next Health Epidemic?

The Nigerian Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth sees obesity as Nigeria’s next epidemiological burden, since around 12% of children in this country are overweight or obese. Some of the major factors contributing to these statistics include belonging to a high socio-economic class, consuming energy-dense diets, and not doing enough exercise. In a study by H Abdullahi Elechi, researchers recommended the introduction of daily school means and mandatory physical activity in all schools. Awareness campaigns are also key: “public nutritional education and campaigns on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and (information on) the complications associated with obesity would probably reverse the trend,” stated researchers. It is important for Nigerians to know that obesity can be nipped in the bud. Making certain lifestyle changes can reduce excess weight, but also help citizens keep off the extra weight in the long-term.

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Risk Factors for Disease Are Modifiable

A 2019 study published in The Lancet has found that one obesity-related disease in particular – pancreatic cancer – is growing in prevalence worldwide, with numbers of diagnoses of this disease more than doubling between 1990 and 2017. Although the precise cause of this type of cancer is still insufficiently understood, risk factors such as obesity, smoking, and diabetes have been identified. Fortunately, these risk factors are preventable by staying at a healthy weight, consuming a nutritious diet, and staying active. The Nigerian government can begin to tackle obesity through awareness campaigns which address the connection between obesity and these life-shortening diseases. Research is also key in order to identify natural substances that can help with the sometimes-challenging task of weight loss.

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A Small African Flower Holds Promise

A study published in the African Journal of Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicine has found that extracts from a small African flower called Vernonia amygdalina holds promise in the fight against obesity. Lab studies showed that the potent phytochemical content of this flower can result in “significant weight loss and significant improvement in metabolic markers of obesity.” Other studies have shown that foods such as black pepper, extract from wild mango seed, and even African bush mango seed extract all hold promise for weight loss.

Research indicates that Nigeria needs to take steps to stop obesity from becoming the burdensome problem it is in many parts of the world. The issue should be tackled from a multi-faceted perspective and should commence with spreading greater awareness about how obesity can shorten lives and hamper their quality. Further research should also be conducted to find potential natural extracts that can alleviate the task of losing weight and keeping it off.

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By Cassandra Ally

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