Updated 23 October 2014

Bloemfontein is South Africa's fattest and most unhealthy city

The ObeCity Index by Discovery Vitality shows that the least healthy Vitality members live in Bloemfontein while the healthiest live in Cape Town.

The ObeCity Index was created by Discovery Vitality along with experts in obesity and nutrition from leading South African academic institutions to form a picture of how healthy South Africans are. 

Discovery collected information about the weight status and health habits of it's Vitality members in Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.

It weighs up members' profiles for figures with respect to weight status, food and beverage choices, physical activity, and psychological well-being and reveals which cities have the healthiest residents.

With more than 60% of South African women being overweight or obese, more than double the global average, South Africa is one of the world's most overweight nations.


Why South Africans are the fattest in Africa
40 percent of SA women are overweight

Obesity is the number one risk factor for non-communicable diseases across the world, says Craig Nossel, head of Vitality Wellness at Discovery.

What the ObeCity Index revealed

1. Bloemfontein has the least healthy weight status, along with the lowest scores for fruit and vegetable intake and highest consumption of sugary drinks and salty foods.

Bloem also ranks second lowest for physical activity (although Vitality members there spend the least time sitting than in the other cities).

Overall, scores for Vitality members in Bloemfontein show that they have the unhealthiest profile when it comes to factors affecting weight status.

2. Pretoria does alright in the weight status category (coming in fourth), but Vitality members here have the highest score for adding fat to food, and the lowest score for sleep quality.

Pretorians spend the second most amount of time sitting, and least amount of time exercising, giving them the lowest physical activity score.

3. Port Elizabeth comes in third overall. The city ranked joint second in the physical activity category, too, which showed residents are relatively active and are sitting less than most of the other cities. However, they came in second lowest for weight status and food and beverage choices.

4. The city ranked fourth overall is Durban. Durbanites ranked second (with PE) in the physical activity category (that includes sitting time), but ranked third for physical activity specifically.

The score for food and beverage choices pulled Durban down, with areas of concern being low fruit and vegetable intake, adding sugar to tea and coffee, and adding fat to food.

5. Johannesburg is the second best overall and Jozi residents have the best weight status score when compared to members in the other cities.

Johannesburg members have the best BMI, waist circumference, body fat percentage, and waist to height ratio scores. Joburgers also have the second highest score for healthy eating, including being least likely to add sugar to tea and coffee and most likely to opt for wholegrains.

However they do spend the most time sitting.

6. Cape Town had the highest overall score, with the highest category scores for food and beverage choices, physical activity, psychological wellbeing, and second only to Johannesburg in weight status.

ReadTaxing sugary drinks may reduce obesity in SA

Although Cape Town Vitality members had the best score for fruit and vegetable intake and second best for adding fat to food and adding sugar to tea and coffee, these scores are still in the low range and need to improve.

Cape-Tonians should take care to avoid sitting for long periods of time, as sitting time is one of the lowest scores for the city. Although there are differences in the scores between cities, they are not too substantial.

What the ObeCity Index shows is that there is much room for improvement for all cities, especially when it comes to decreasing body fat percentage, increased fruit and vegetable intake, and decreased sugar and fat intake.

We could all benefit from more movement and less sitting.

ReadHow sitting all day is killing you

On a positive note, all members have pretty good habits when it comes to intake of salty foods, lean meat, low-fat dairy, sugary drinks, alcohol, and overall psychological wellbeing.

ReadSA eats and drinks too much, and doesn’t move enough

The ObeCity Index city ranking is relative to weight status and associated factors: The ranking works in the way that the city that is least healthy is ranked highest in the ObeCity Index.

The ObeCity Index city ranking for the six metropoles, relative to weight status and associated factors, are as follows:

"Bloemfontein was rated first in the overall ObeCity Index; making it the least healthy city.

The city was ranked lowest in three categories - Weight Status, Food and Beverage choices and Psychological Wellbeing; and ranked third in Physical Activity.

ReadSA kids are 5th-fattest in the world

The ranking from best to worst in the four categories of Weight Status, Food and Beverage choices, Physical Activity and Psychological Wellbeing

Cape Town       1
Johannesburg  2
Durban             3
Port Elizabeth  4
Pretoria            5
Bloemfontein   6

Read more:

The people who live the longest, and why
Obesity in SA reaches 'epidemic' proportions
Urbanisation and cultural beliefs fuel obesity in South Africa
Obesity in SA: where will it end?
I want to live forever - the science behind living a long, long life

Image: People at the "Vryfees" art festival on the campus of the University of the Free State on July 18, 2014. Grobler du Preez,


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