For the first time overweight and obesity have been listed among reasons Kenyans are visiting hospitals.
The 2021 Kenya Economic Survey, for the first time lists overweight among 75 diseases for which Kenyans visited hospitals last year.
Listed according to the frequency of visits, with upper respiratory diseases and malaria at the top, overweight is about halfway the list at number 30 indicating weight as growing medical problem in the country.
“Obesity prevalence is high in Kenya and is associated with hypertension and dyslipidemia or blood cholesterol,” says Kenya’s Ministry of Health in a new national survey.
The survey covering 4,276 participants says there is enough evidence to link obesity with high rates of hypertension and dyslipidemia in the country.
Dyslipidemia, or abnormally elevated cholesterol or fat in blood increases the risk of clogged blood vessels, heart attacks, stroke and other circulatory problems.
Our study results, the survey says highlight an urgent need for intervention to prevent and treat overweight and obesity across the country.
The survey also involving the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and several foreign universities says obesity and overweight are worryingly high in Kenya and a main cause of hypertension.
“In this nationally representative sample of Kenyan adults, we found high rates of general and central obesity,” says the study published in the journal Medicine last week (8th October 2021)
Obese adults, the report says were twice as likely to have hypertension and dyslipidemia and four times likely to have multiple co-morbidities as their normal-weight counterparts regardless of sex.
Surprisingly the survey found no association between obesity and the increasing incidence of diabetes in the country.
“In our analysis, we did not ﬁnd any signiﬁcant association between obesity measures and diabetes in both sexes.”
The study financed by the drug manufacturer, AstraZeneca among others, found most Kenyans with central obesity (potbelly) are women; people aged over 40 years, highly educated, married, and the wealthy.
Counties most affected by obesity
General obesity the report shows to be highest in Nakuru and Kiambu counties in Kenya with more than five percent of the population affected.
Other counties where between three and four per cent of the population have general obesity include Meru, Nyeri, Machakos, and Muranga counties.
Kiambu on the other had has the highest number of people with potbellies (central or abdominal obesity) at more than five percent of the population.
Other areas with high rates of potbellies are Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties with between four to five percent of the population affected.
Hypertension is highest in Kitui, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru at over three percent while Tharaka, Nyeri, and Elgeyo Marakwet counties have the highest rates of diabetes at over five percent of their populations.
The authors are alerting doctors that they are likely to encounter an increasing number of individuals with obesity related health conditions across all ages and sex.
By Gatonye Gathura