A senior physician and consultant at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, Dr Abdallah Yahaya believes that wealthy families are more at risk of obesity than poor households. “People with tertiary degrees, who have good salaries and can afford to buy this junk food for their children, are more obese than those living in the rural areas,” he told DW, a German based broadcasting company.
According to a report filed by DW who visited the city of Tamale, the Northern part of the country say that the well-to-do shun traditional food staples sold in markets and increasingly turn to junk food.
A study conducted in February of this year by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the University of the Western Cape in South Africa found that 43 per cent of Ghanaians are obese.
One of them they reported is a 17-year-old Farihan Tiyumba who currently weighs 125 kilograms (275.5 pounds). Farihan is deeply worried and unhappy. “I don’t feel myself. If I go out people look at me somehow. Some call me obolo,” he told DW.
Farihan’s four siblings of are also obese. They have been put on therapies which include food control and regular workouts.
The need for exercise
Dr Abdallah added that the trend was very worrisome. “Obesity is caused by carbohydrate,” he says, going on to explain that without exercise, excess carbohydrate converts to fat “and then it increases your body weight.
Mens’ abdomens will grow big and for the women it will be the hips. These are all dangerous fats”. That’s because they block the arteries and allow less supply of oxygen to reach the body’s extremities, he explained.
Traditional staples like cassava can be prejudicial to the health of the sedentary
As a result of changing lifestyles, non-infectious diseases in Ghana are on the increase. At the Teaching Hospital in Tamale, 73 per cent of the cases are linked to lifestyle.
Fast food Joints on the rise
Fast food restaurants which are sited all over the country, especially in urban centres, provide food that poses serious health threat to consumers.
The Head Chef of the Verity Restaurant in Tamale, Mr Nayabri David has said that in his nine years of experience cooking both local and inter-continental dishes in Ghana, he found a lot of bad practices in many restaurants.
“I realized they are using too much unnatural spices and also using oil to fry chicken. Not only chicken but any other meat without, even proper seasoning,” he told DW, a german based broadcasting company.
The chef says that he preferred grilled meat, which he believed to be much healthier.
Experts say excess fat in food can lead to hyperlipidemia, which means high levels of fat or cholesterol in the blood. This represents a major health risk and can lead to obesity.
Educate the children
Back at the Verity Restaurant, Sheba Kumfah, the restaurant’s CEO, advises families on how to teach their children to eat properly. “Most children love to snack on sweets,” she acknowledged.
This is why it is so important to teach them to snack on fruits and vegetables instead. “They grow up to live that kind of lifestyle and so it is easier,” she said.
It is much more difficult to change their eating habits if they grow up on biscuits and industrial sweet beverages, Kumfah said.
The food culture in Ghana is another factor in the growing rates of obesity. Staple foods such as tubers and cereals contain high levels of carbohydrate. They represent no danger as long as you have a healthy lifestyle. But in modern Ghana, more and more people now lead very sedentary lives.