Obesity and diabetes in Africa on the rise.

Cape Town, South Africa | Results of a continental study conducted by an Africa-wide consortium, led by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), in collaboration with Imperial College London have revealed that the prevalence of obesity and diabetes is significantly higher in southern Africa and northern Africa, led by South Africa and Egypt respectively. 

“This is the first detailed analysis of obesity and diabetes in Africa and shows a steady increase across the continent since 1980,” says Professor Kengne, Unit Director at the SAMRC’s Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit. “It highlights susceptibility determinants which are particular to Africans and will provide evidence that can be referenced when developing interventions in managing the dual burden of obesity and diabetes in Africa.”

Dr James Bentham, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, added: “Our findings are based on the largest dataset ever collected describing these conditions in Africa. As the continent experiences higher burdens of obesity and diabetes, there is also a need to track performance of countries in preventing these conditions through better data.”

The Trends in obesity and diabetes across regions in Africa report suggests a steady increase in diabetes prevalence between 1980 and 2014 increasing (in men) from 3.4% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. In women, prevalence increased by 4.8 percentage points, from 4.1% in 1980 to 8.9% in 2014.

The first of its kind obesity and diabetes trend analysis conducted between 1980 and 2014 shows that the prevalence of diabetes is increasing rapidly and is triggered by high incidence of obesity. The highest rates of obesity and diabetes in men were recorded in northern Africa whilst southern Africa accounted for the highest levels of obesity and diabetes in women.

According to the study, Arab countries in northern Africa have the highest diabetes prevalence and this is attributed to a difference in diet, sedentary lifestyle and obesity as a consequence.  Southern Africa’s high prevalence in diabetes can be attributed to urbanisation and the economic transition from less developed to more affluent lifestyles.

The results of the study will inform the 2016 Dar Es Salaam Call to Action on Diabetes and other NCDs which advocates for national multi-sectoral NCD strategies and action plans that are based on available data from sub-Saharan countries and beyond.

The study, conducted under the umbrella of the African working group of the Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), involved about 80 collaborators from countries across Africa and in the global North. NCD-RisC (headquarters at Imperial College London) is a network of health scientists around the world that provides rigorous and timely data on major risk factors for non-communicable diseases for all of the world’s countries.

The scope of South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) research includes basic laboratory investigations, clinical research and public health studies.  Research at the SAMRC focuses on the ten highest causes of mortality in South Africa and includes non-communicable diseases (NCD”s), TB, HIV, alcohol and drug abuse, and women’s health. Visit: www.samrc.ac.za ; @MRCza

Imperial College London is one of the world's leading universities. The College's 16,000 students and 8,000 staff are expanding the frontiers of knowledge in science, medicine, engineering and business, and translating their discoveries into benefits for society.  Founded in 1907, Imperial builds on a distinguished past - having pioneered penicillin, holography and fibre optics - to shape the future. Imperial researchers work across disciplines to improve health and wellbeing, understand the natural world, engineer novel solutions and lead the data revolution. This blend of academic excellence and its real-world application feeds into Imperial's exceptional learning environment, where students participate in research to push the limits of their degrees.

Imperial collaborates widely to achieve greater impact. It works with the NHS to improve healthcare in west London, is a leading partner in research and education within the European Union, and is the UK's number one research collaborator with China.  Imperial has nine London campuses, including its White City Campus: a research and innovation centre that is in its initial stages of development in west London. At White City, researchers, businesses and higher education partners will co-locate to create value from ideas on a global scale. www.imperial.ac.uk

View the complete Trends in obesity and diabetes across Africa from 1980 to 2014: an analysis of pooled population-based studies Study

Release date: 
Monday, June 5, 2017 - 11:32
Keletso Ratsela
Contact: Keletso Ratsela

Keletso Ratsela
Media Releations Assistant
Tel: +27 71 214 5272
E-mail: keletso.ratsela@mrc.ac.za