The Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) has called on government at all levels to set aside a day for the celebration of ‘Obesity Day’.
Dr Kingsley Akinroye, the Executive Director of NHF, made the call at a news conference organised by the foundation in commemoration of the World Obesity Day 2022 on Thursday, in Lagos.
According to him, an obesity day should be set aside to address rising cases of obesity and obesity-related diseases in Nigeria.
The World Obesity Day is observed globally every March 3, to create awareness about the dangers of obesity.
Akinroye, who noted that the foundation was concerned about the rapid increase in obesity and the risk factors, said NHF was poised to promote awareness on ‘walkability’ and healthy diets.
According to him, local governments, being the closest to the people, must urgently create the awareness and sensitisation at the grassroots to save lives being lost to obesity.
“The federal and the state governments should come on board; the local governments should also come onboard and declare a day for Obesity, to sensitise people on the need to focus on what they eat.
“We must declare a day when no car will go through a local government: Everybody must walk. There must be no car on that day. We are looking for that day; and that is being done in Nairobi, Kenya every year.
“Local Governments are very powerful and we feel that local governments would take this up: Declare a day for World Obesity in which they will walk and encourage people to take fruits. They can even subsidise this,” Akinroye said.
He said that government could save a lot of funds spent on provision of healthcare, if obesity was adequately addressed.
According to him, so many unhealthy lifestyles of Nigerians affect the structure and blood vessels in the body, saying that the biggest blood vessel remained the heart.
Akinroye said: “You are what you eat. If you decide to eat food nutrients that are very high in salt and fat, you will pay for it. We have to be careful in what we eat and we should pay particular attention to it.
“The blood vessel will pay for it and the number one index is that the blood pressure will go up. Such an individual is a candidate to having health attack, stroke, damaged kidney, kidney failure and other risks.”
He said that there was the need to also influence the nation’s educational systems in the fight against obesity.
“The more physical activities we do, the healthier we are likely to be, and the less sitting down we do, the more we we live longer and have a better life,” Akinroye said.
In her remarks, Mrs Dolapo Coker, the Chairman, NHF Planning Committee on World Obesity Day 2022, said that obesity was being influenced by several factors such as genetic, metabolic, cultural, environment and socio-economic.
Coker, who is the former President, Nigerians Institute of Food Science and Technology, said that obesity subjected individuals to a higher risk for serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and falls.
“Obesity can cause long-term devastating illness. In Nigeria, available evidence showed that obesity was gradually increasing, especially among children and youth.
“Urban residents, children and youth are noted to be more overweight and/or obese than their rural counterparts.
“Nutritional transition characterised by a shift from traditional diets to more high economy diets and less engagement in active transportation and physical activities at home and in school, have been associated with childhood obesity among urban resident children and youths in Nigeria.
“Obesity is a major risk factor for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke, cancer and road traffic accidents,” Coker said.
She added that prevention of obesity involved individuals and policymakers and this included restricting the marketing, to children of food and drinks high in sugar, salt and fats, as well as improving physical activities in schools and other environments.
Coker also called for restrictions on sugar-sweetened beverages and high fatty meals, and provision for improved access to affordable home-prepared foods.
“In our cities, we need to create space for safe walking, cycling and recreation facilities. Obesity is no more a show of wealth, rather it is a show of Ill-health.
“Government, non-governmental organisation, companies, health and education authorities, sports commissions and organisations should develop policies to improve walkability for adults and children, including in housing-estates, towards reduction and elimination of obesity.
“Individuals are encouraged to eat five or six servings of fruits and vegetables daily; reduce processed foods from diet, eat whole grain products and walk at least 30 minutes every day,” Coker said.
She, however, called on everyone to join hands in the fight against stigmatisation faced by obese people.
Also speaking, Prof. Olugbenga Ogunmoyewa, the Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative (CAFSANI), called for the regulation of food intake, saying that Nigerians must change some eating habits and walk more.
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