Top NWU expert reckons SA has a fat problem

Christi Cloete -- Thu, 05/28/2015 - 08:04

Top NWU expert reckons SA has a fat problem

Prof Hans de Ridder of the School of Biokinetics, Recreation and Sports Science once again did the name of the North-West University (NWU) proud at international level when he was once more classified as the only level 4 anthropometrist in Africa.

Anthropometry is the science behind measuring people’s bodies for health and sports purposes.

According to Prof De Ridder, there are currently only 16 anthropometrists in the world who are qualified at this, the highest, level. In the examination that he recently took in Scotland, he achieved a final mark of 95% and his accreditation was thus re-established for the next four years.

This science uses specialised techniques to measure people, specifically because the human body is very complex and intricate to measure. This data plays an extremely important role in determining a particular country’s level of obesity, as well as in designing clothing and equipment. “Anthropometric data of South Africans has changed considerably during the last three decades. We are experiencing a large increase in overweight and obesity in adults as well as children. Research shows that nearly two-thirds of the South African population is overweight. Contrary to the case in other developed countries, women in South Africa have a bigger problem than men, with as much as 70% of all women being overweight. Approximately 38% of overweight women (4 out of every 10) are classified as clinically obese, which means a BMI of more than 30. We define obesity as the abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat in the human body that holds health risks such as, inter alia, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes.”

He attributes this increase in weight to an unhealthy lifestyle that can, among other things, include an excessive consumption of unhealthy or wrong food and particularly too little exercise.

Anthropometrists take basic measurements such as skin folds, limb and trunk circumferences, skeletal leg lengths, et cetera, but also more advanced measurements such as percentage body fat, percentage bone and muscle mass, body volumes, surface areas, three-dimensional body shapes, somatotypes, et cetera.

In the world of health anthropometry is used to classify people according to obesity, overweight and body mass index to determine whether or not they pose a health risk. On the sports field the percentage of fat, muscle and bone of athletes is measured as it plays a very important role in conditioning and has a big influence on performance.

Children are also measured and monitored for growth, maturation and particularly obesity and undernutrition. “Earlier research at the NWU proved that South African children have, alongside America and Britain, the third highest obesity figure in the world. Children who walk less than ten thousand paces per day run the risk of being diagnosed with chronic diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol or type 2 diabetes,” says De Ridder.

He says it is therefore crucially important that children be active from a young age. “They must play, do PE at school, take part in sport and follow an active lifestyle. The role our schools and especially the parents play in this regard is also extremely important to ensure that our South African children maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.”