Home » Health » Good Living or Poor Diet As Zimbabweans Pile On Fat?

It’s a calm Sunday morning and Cecilia Tavengwa sets for the local pharmacy with her two daughters in trail.

Her mind is rather restive. Although she is not ill, it is her two daughters, whose ever ballooning bodies are giving her sleepless nights.

At seven years of age and in Grade 2, the younger of the two already weighs 49 kilogrammes — the scale confirms — and the elder one’s weight is also a cause for concern.

With voluptuous hips and ample bossoms, the juveniles can easily pass for adults.

Rising incidents of reported rape cases make her afraid that her children, who in their juvenile stage, already court men’s straying eyes owing to their developed bodies, could be easy targets.

She may be right, but the real imminent predator sure to pounce on its unsuspecting victims is obesity.

Health professionals say luxurious lifestyles, coupled with little or no physical activity, are going to herald a health disaster characterised by hypertension, cancer and diabetes.

“When one takes a walk around Harare from the CBD to the downtown areas, you will notice a similar trend where at each corner there is a fast food outlet.

“This means junk food has become the in-thing, very popular with many people. And, as if that were not enough, most people now drive to work or to shops because they no longer want to walk — and most people now drive their children to school.

“What people do not seem to realise and which health authorities are not doing much to aise on, is that this behaviour represents a health timebomb. With these type of diets, compounded by little or no physical activity, we are certainly heading for an obese society,” says National Community and Medical Research Trust director Camillo Chinamasa.

Harare’s restaurants, just like any other city and town across the country, are a hive of activity, from morning right through to night time.

According to Chinamasa, a 500mls pet coke is extremely high in sugar content, containing 13 to 15 teaspoons of sugar.

Zimbabwe Diabetics Association president, John Mangwiro said too much sugar is just as bad as too much fat.

“Unwanted sugar is converted into carbohydrates which is then stored under the skin as fat, hence one would gain weight attracting the same health complications such as diabetes,” he warned.

Previously a preserve of the elite, fast food outlets are now very popular with everyone, from vendors in the streets to the affluent residents.

But it’s not only the presence genetically modified food (GMOs) in Zimbabwe that hasraised health concerns. The fat-based cooking methods have also raised the concern of health experts who say this has exposed people to a range of diseases.

“We urge cooks to employ water-based methods such as boiling or steaming as this eliminates the risk of spreading cancer and heart diseases.

“But because deep frying is fast and enticing, it remains the viable commercial practice,” said dietician Monalifa Manyasha.

She said high food fat exposed people to coronary heart diseases, weight gain, diabetes and cancer.

Lack of dietary information has been blamed for this recklessness which is most common in urban areas.

Rural folk who rely more on traditional diets that are not over-processed and tend to do more physical activity are safer.

Mangwiro bemoaned the rise of Type 2 diabetes which he said largely depended on peoples’ lifestyle.

He said unhealthy diets besides exposing one to chronic illnesses, also led to complications among patients trying to manage their health problems.

He urged government to enforce correct labelling and visible labelling of food products to ensure consumers, especially diabetics, are aware of sugar, carbohydrates or fat concentration in products.

“It’s also time the use of colours is adopted, say a food product not fit for diabetics is clearly labelled in red and that which is fit is also labelled in green,” he stressed.

Dietician Manyasha added that research overseas had established the high link between deep-frying methods and the use of recycled used oils to different types of cancers, including, bladder and lung cancer.

Latest statistics from the Zimbabwe Cancer Registry say 2 500 black women succumb to breast cancer annually.

Breast cancer has been on the rise in Zimbabwe over the years with former deputy prime minister in the inclusive government, Thokhozani Khupe being affected.

A research by scientists from Singapore, which analysed the quality of air in given kitchens, and published in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, underscored the need for proper ventilated kitchens to guard against extreme exposure to cancers.

Comparing Malaysian, Chinese and Indian cooking methods, it noted that the deep frying methods by Malaysian chefs produced more harmful cancer causing substances compared to the stir-frying methods by Chinese chefs.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard