Why more Kenyan women than men are obese


Graphic by Stanslaus Manthi | Compiled by John Waweru 

The prevalence of obesity in Kenyan women is three times as high as that of their male counterparts as a result of poor feeding habits and lifestyle in general.

Data from NCD-Risc; a network of health scientists across the globe show that prevalence of obesity among women was 19.3 per cent compared to 6.3 per cent for men.

The study, which was carried out over three decades, revealed that more than 2.7 million women in Kenya were obese compared to 760,000 men as of 2022. There are various reasons that explain why women are more obese than men.

Women tend to have bad eating habits and little physical activities compared to men. According to a study by Frontiers in Nutrition, obesity is an outcome of lifestyle, it revolves around how we live, what we eat and the amount we eat.

Genetic predisposition where if one hails from a family of big-bodied individuals, the probability of growing fat is higher.

Lastly, hormones explain some cases. For instance, the abundance of oestrogen is linked to causing excess weight around the hip and thigh areas while increasing the size of breasts.

In another analysis by KDHS; a KNBS social survey, the highest rates were in Kirinyaga (64.6 per cent) and Nyeri (63 per cent) for women and Kajiado (31.1 per cent) and Kiambu (28.2 per cent) for men.

Obesity is linked to increasing the risk of developing many health complications such as some cancers, diabetes type II, heart conditions and other life-threatening diseases.

According to an interview by BBC, Prof Ezzati- an expert in global environmental health, explains the reason behind the consumption of unhealthy food is due to aggressive marketing campaigns promoting unhealthy foods, while the cost and availability of healthier food can be more problematic.

In 2017, the World Bank estimated the cost of a healthy diet in Kenya as $2.86 where fruits and vegetables were among the most expensive as part of the diet.

According to the estimates published in the Lancet, a medical journal, out of the 190 countries, Kenya ranks 135th highest for women and 173rd for men.

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