The epidemic of obesity in South Africa: a study in a disadvantaged community.
Temple, Norman J.
Levitt, Naomi S.
Lombard, Carl J.
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Objective: The objective of this study was: 1) to determine the anthropometric profile of adults In Mamre, a small town In South Africa, which has a population of mixed ancestry ("colored" people of Afro-Euro-Malay-Khoisan ancestry); and 2) to determine the change In this profile between 1989 and 1996. Design: Cross-sectional surveys conducted In random samples of adults In 1989 and 1996. Participants: The subjects were 684 women and 529 men In 1989, and 546 women and 430 men In 1996, aged 15 and older. Main Outcome Measures; The following measurements were recorded: height, weight, and circumference of waist, hips, and mid-upper arm. Results: Based on data from the 1996 survey, 32% of women are obese (body mass index [BMI] ;;: 30) at ages 25-44 years, rising to 49% at ages 45-64 years. A much lower prevalence of obesity is seen in men: 14"10 at ages 35-64 years. Obesity levels significantly increased in women between the two surveys (P=.015): up from 44% in 1989 to 49% in 1996 at ages 45-64 years. There was an Increase In the prevalence of overweight (BMI 25-29.9) in men, though not in obesity. Mean 8MI increased by about 3% In women and 2% in men between 1989 and 1996. Conclusions; This study conducted among people of mixed ancestry living In a disadvantaged community In South Africa shows that half of middle-aged women are obese. A rising trend In 8MI was seen in adults of both sexes between 1989 and 1996. This trend may be explained by factors associated with rural-urban transition, Including electrification, reduced physical activity, and Increasing availability of energy-dense food.