Overweight and obesity are important public health issues in Nigeria and are associated with cardiovascular, endocrine and metabolic diseases. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity among undergraduate students. Adopting a descriptive study design, 120 students voluntarily participated in the study. Data was collected using questionnaire, weighing machine and a measuring tape. Frequencies (for socidemographic data) and body Mass index were calculated. A research hypothesis was formulated. The overall prevalence of overweight and obesity from the current study are 142/1000 and 41/1000 respectively. The study reveals that 42/1000 males and one in every ten females is overweight. Eight of every thousand males and 33/1000 females are obese. The formulated hypothesis tested at a significant level of 5% indicated that the relationship between gender and prevalence of overweight/obesity is statistically significant. We concluded that weight management intervention in the university should focus on females and further research should seek to understand why females are more likely to be overweight or obese than males
Background to the Study
Overweight and obesity are the most common nutritional disorder of recent years, despite the knowledge on its prevention; health implications and advancement in its treatment, there seem to be a number of new cases each year. Overweight and obesity was previously a problem of high- income countries, but is now on the rise in low-and-middle- income countries, especially in urban settings. This is mostly due to consumption of energy dense food that is high in sugar and also fats. Overweight and obesity is attributed to decreased physical activity and has leads to increase morbidity and mortality worldwide.
Olusanya (2008) defined obesity as an abnormal accumulation of fat in the adipose tissue throughout the body. It is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health (WHO, 2000). It is defined by body mass index
(BMI) and further evaluated in terms of fat distribution via waist-hip ratio and total cardio-vascular risk factors (Sweeting, 2007). Overweight and obesity increases the likelihood of various diseases, particularly heart diseases, type2 diabetes, breathing difficulties during sleep, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis. Obesity is most commonly caused by a combination of excessive dietary calories, lack of physical activities and genetic susceptibility, although a few cases are caused permanently by genes, endocrine disorders, medications or psychiatric illness (Haslam and James, 2005). Total increase in overweight and obesity attributable to several factor including foods that are high in fat and sugars and low in minerals and vitamins and other micro nutrients, increasing low-intensity work form due to urbanisation, new modes of transportation and decreased physical activity in general (Kids health, 2010).
Projections in 2005 by WHO shows that about 2.3 billion adults were overweight globally (WHO, 2008). In both the developed and developing world, obesity has reached epidemic proportions (Derek, Dard, and Kelly, 2006). More than 10% of the world’s adult population was estimated obese with over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women as at 2008 (WHO, 2008). There is a vast amount of evidence worldwide that shows obesity is chronic disease which can predispose to potential fat at chronic conditions, such as type2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke (Bjorntorp, 2001).
The increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity is probably associated with industrialisation and urbanisation, which results in changed eating habits and lifestyles in the population (Pop kin and Gordon-Larsen, 2004).
A study conducted in Northern Nigeria reported 210/1000 prevalence of overweight with higher prevalence among females than males (29.8% vs 9.3%). (Kolawole, Wahab, Sani, Bashir, Maru, Akeem, and Mamud, 2011). A 2006 review identified ten other possible contributors to the recent increase of obesity. Insufficient sleep, endocrine disruptors (environmental pollutant that interfere with lipid metabolism), variability in ambient temperature, decreased rate of smoking, because smoking suppresses appetite, increased use of medications that can cause weight gain, proportional increase in ethnic and age groups that tends to be heavier, pregnancy at late age (which may cause susceptibility in children obesity), risk factor passed on generationally, natural selection for higher BMI and assortative mating leading to obesity. (This would not necessarily increase the number of obese people, but would increase the average population weight) (Keith, Raddden, Kat, and Zmarzyt, 2006).
A study in southwestern Nigeria indicated a high prevalence of overweight and obesity among females (Akinpelu, Oyewolu, and Oritogun, 2008). However, a study in Greece reported a higher incidence of overweight among males than female (Bertsias, Mammas, Linacalkis, and Kafatos, 2003).
Obesity is a global health problem and little is known about its prevalence among undergraduates in Plateau state Nigeria. This study will provide a baseline data that will kick-start the process of ensuring a healthy life among students.