Childhood Obesity in South Africa.

Childhood obesity has increased ten-fold since 1975. Find out how childhood obesity is linked to Type 2 Diabetes.

Get the facts.

Childhood obesity deserves your attention.

South Africa is just one of many countries where childhood obesity rates have spiked over recent years. Governments and social institutions must take swift action to prevent an exponential increase of health problems in years to come. Already-burdened healthcare systems could implode with the rate of demand currently projected. There is also the reality of tax implications and how the healthcare systems are to be funded as demand rises.

Global context

The prevalence of obesity in general has increased ten-fold since 1975. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 650 million adults and 340 million children were recorded as obese in 2016.

Childhood obesity in South Africa

With the rise of urbanisation, comes the intensity of globalisation and industrialisation. Foods with higher calorie content, processed additives and preservatives are readily available to communities previously mostly consuming subsistence produce and whole grains. This means colourful sugary beverages are also easier to access.

Compounding the problem is the widespread decrease of physical activity. Our challenges with child health have doubled in frequency and severity in six years, largely due to parents battling weight-based health problems themselves.

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The Link Between Childhood Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

The development of Type 2 Diabetes is most often slow. Diagnosis may only be discovered during a child’s adolescent or teenage years. The slow progression towards this diagnosis begins far sooner than most people realise. Type 2 Diabetes is often linked to obesity. Type 2 Diabetes occurs when your body battles to produce insulin, which helps to process glucose. This leads to serious health complications, especially if left undiagnosed, untreated, and unmanaged. Leading a healthy lifestyle, while ensuring your child eats a well-balanced diet and regularly participates in exercise, can prevent the onset of Diabetes, and keep obesity at bay


All4Women. 2017. Childhood obesity: A wake-up call for parents. The Citizen. 13 October. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

Amugsi, D. 2018. Research shows shocking rise in obesity levels in urban Africa over past 25 years. The Conversation. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. Childhood Obesity Facts. 29 April. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

Diabetes Focus eMag. 2018. Obesity in children. 28 June. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

Ground Up. 2014. South Africa’s childhood obesity “a huge problem”. The South African. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

Health24. 2017. Alarming increase in childhood obesity over 4 decades. 18 October. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

NGO Pulse. 2016. Childhood obesity in South Africa. 13 October. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

Okoye, CJ. 2018. SA facing obesity crisis as kids growing heavier than US counterparts. 15 August. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

Rall, S. 2017. South Africa’s big fat obesity problem. Independent Online. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

State of Obesity. 2019. Childhood obesity trends. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

Van der Merwe, MT. 2012. Obesity in childhood and adolescence. The South African Medical Journal, 102 (5). Available online at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

World Health Organisation. 2018. Obesity and overweight. 16 February. Available at: [Accessed 9 September 2019].

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