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1.8 million Kenyans are obese, says new report

Kenya’s health burden is set to worsen with about 7.8 million people reported to be overweight.

A decade-long study dubbed the ‘Global Disease Burden’ carried out by 500 researchers globally in 188 countries says six million Kenyans are overweight and 1.8 million others obese.

Kenya’s population is 40 million people, according to the 2009 national census.

The report by the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metric and Evaluation (IHME) blames the problem on lack of exercise and a passion for sedentary lifestyles. It was released on December 17.

Those affected could shave off as many as 8.4 years from their lives in men and 6.1 years in women, the report says.

The most affected are those aged between 20 to 39 years.

“Lack of exercises, love for fast foods and busy schedules are pushing Kenyans to adopt ‘modern’ lifestyles where many use vehicles to move around compared to several decades ago when many walked to and from work,” it says.


Women are hardest hit with those aged 20 and above recording an increased Body Mass Index beyond the recommended standard BMI, thereby raising the risk of cancer, the report further says.

Improved incomes and the urban lifestyles has seen more people spend a lot of time watching television unlike in the rural areas where most hours are spent tilling land or other domestic chaos.

IHME director Christopher Murray said Kenya was among 188 countries that recorded increased rates of weight gain. He warned that the issue was likely to become a public health crisis if not addressed urgently.

In boys under 20 years, 9.4 per cent are overweight while three per cent are obese, states the report. Among girls, 13.2 per cent are overweight and 2.6 per cent obese.

Men over 20 years showed a major increase of the waist line with 30 per cent reported to be overweight while 6.3 per cent are obese. Some 34.1 per cent of women in the same age group are overweight and 15.2 per cent obese.

The problem has also been worsened by the fact that more Kenyans have turned to animal-based fats and proteins unlike in the past when they ate plant-based foods.