It’s official. Cape Town is South Africa’s healthiest city according to the Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index 2017.
Discovery Vitality Head Craig Nossel announced the results on Wednesday in a statement.
Nearly half a million Vitality members living in six South African cities, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth were assessed on their weight status, food purchasing behaviour, fruit and vegetable intake, salt intake and sugar intake.
Cape Town reigned in the first three categories, and Durban took the crown for the lowest amounts regarding salt and sugar intake.
Johannesburg came second in both the weight status category and the fruit and vegetable intake. Bloemfontein took second place in the food purchasing behaviour category and third in the fruit and vegetable intake.
Port Elizabeth seized second place in the salt and sugar intake categories.
Nossel said that weight status was measured by Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference; the food purchasing score was determined by a ratio of healthy to healthy-plus-unhealthy products purchased at Pick n Pay and Woolworths through the HealthyFood benefit and the fruit and vegetable intake was determined by the average number of fruit and vegetable portions purchased per member.
Salt and sugar intake was determined by the average number of salt or sugar products purchased per member, and this included taking into account products high in salt and in sugar including sugary snacks and drinks.
Nossel noted that given the growing global obesity epidemic which is driven by changes in dietary patterns and a high sugar, salt, fat and animal products consumption, it is important to ensure that people understand what healthy living is and how to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Barry Popkin reviewed the Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index 2017 results.
“The analysis underlying this report shows that by reducing purchasing of unhealthy confectionery and convenience meals and processed meats, a half unit of BMI would be decreased and similarly reducing sugary drinks and salty snacks would produce a similar impact. Both changes were linked with replacement by healthier foods and healthier beverages,” Popkin said.
Popkin pointed out that lower BMI scores in both cases were “associated with lower healthcare costs per year.” Switching to a healthier lifestyle and making wise food choices, he said, “create longer-term healthier eating trajectories which promise to have even greater effects.”
Nossel elaborated: “We see a direct correlation between weight status and health outcomes. People with an unhealthy bodyweight incure a direct increase in healthcare costs of approximately R4,400 per person per year. We also know that the purchase of healthy foods has a positive impact on BMI and the associated risks of developing chronic diseases lifestyle.”
Nossel said that Discovery’s data indicated that Discovery members who purchased healthy foods have a 10 percent lower BMI than those who purchased unhealthy foods. This translates into a R2,500 annual healthcare costs savings
Nossel pointed out that South Africans tend to follow a convenience food lifestyle, eating “ultra processed foods” which contain high percentages of sugar, salt, fat and animal products. Research showed that “sales of ready-made meals, snack bars and instant noodles increased by 40 percent between 2005 and 2010.
Fast foods are not kind to our bodies or our health. Statistics show that globally, 4.5 million people die each year from obesity-related health issues and this number is greater than the number of people who die from underweight-related health issues.
Obesity not only impacts negatively on people’s lives, it also has financial impact, draining R16.4 trillion from the global economy. In South Africa, it is estimated that about R701 billion is lost each year due to obesity related issues.
Nossel urged people to look after their health and called on all sectors of society to do their bit in fighting the obesity epidemic, encouraging their friends, families, employees and colleagues to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
“As individuals, we need to move more and consciously make healthier food choices. As businesses, whether manufacturers, retailers, or restaurant owners, we need to actively contribute to creating a society where the healthy choice is the easier choice.”