For Wits University students, healthy food options are relatively limited. Processed food is generally easier to find than healthy food, and it’s high in fat.
Professor Nigel Crowther, a chemical pathology researcher, painted a gloomy picture about the obesity risk factors among people in Africa at his inaugural lecture on August 1.
Young people potentially face various diseases, including type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure), joint pain and certain cancers, he said. A healthy diet and increased physical activity should be encouraged or else “in 20 year’s obesity in Africa will be the highest in the world”, he said.
Maile George Ralefatane, a chemical pathology masters student supervised by Crowther, said that although there isn’t an obesity problem on campus, students are still at risk. “The way we eat influences the way fat is deposited in our body.”
Visceral fat, that surrounds organs in the abdominal area, is bad fat, said Crowther. “One must aim for a reduction in the waist-to-hip ratio by getting rid of the visceral fat without affecting the good fat like glutal femoral fat,” he said. Put simply, belly fat is more of a risk than the fat on your hips.
“If you have a higher waist-to-hip ratio, then it’s a risk factor for obesity,” said Ralefatane. It doesn’t matter how much you exercise, if you eat badly. You have to start with a healthy diet for exercising to be effective, he said. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is one way to test whether a person is obese. BMI measures a person’s weight in relation to their height.
Crowther said, “A BMI greater than or equal to 25, [means you’re] overweight and if it’s 30 or more then you’re obese and at risk of co-morbid diseases.”
First-year construction studies student Neo Sehloho said: “I buy unhealthy food because it’s fast. Healthy food is also expensive. “When I’m at home and not at res, I eat healthy. Also when I eat healthy food for a long time, I don’t have issues with my muscles and joints,” said Sehloho.
“I’m very particular with what I eat because I feel like what you eat really does make you who you are,” said third-year accounting science student, Thendo Vhulahani . At the Wits main campus dining hall, “there is a health hub, with healthy options,” she said. “Overall the health selection is alright, but campus as a whole could make a better effort in bringing healthier food,” said Vhulahani.