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Diet-related problems, obesity on rise in South Africa, report finds

“Diet-related health problems such as obesity are on the rise in South Africa, according to a 2019 WWF report,” reads the caption of a short video posted on Facebook by food and beverage brand Knorr.

The claim is credited, with a link, to a report by the South African office of the World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF.  

The post has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook’s fact-checking system. Are its claims correct?

Most significant health challenges ‘diet-related’

The 2019 WWF report, Agri-food Systems: Facts and Futures, examines food production in South Africa.

The report looks at whether South Africa’s food system can sustainably produce enough food for the country. This is in order to meet the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals, which include eliminating “all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030”.

In the section South Africa: Food and People, the report discusses South Africa’s success in reducing undernutrition.

But it adds that the country’s most significant health challenges are now “diet-related health problems, such as the growing prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases, and the persistence of hunger, nutrient deficiencies and stunting”.

The claim in the WWF report is supported by the 2016 South African Health and Diversity Survey by Statistics South Africa.

This found that the “prevalence of hypertension, overweight, and obesity appears to have increased since 1998. Based on the body mass index (BMI) score, 68% of women and 31% of men are overweight or obese.” Body mass index or BMI can be an indicator of the amount of fat stored by the body.

The WWF and Knorr rightly raise concerns about South Africans’ diet and health, according to available data. – Keegan Leech


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