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Experts call for controlled consumption of sugary, fatty foods to reduce obesity in learners

Director Public Health at the Ministry of Health, Dr Daniel Kyabayinze addressing the media at a press briefing held Monday, June 17, at MoH Headquarters in Kampala (photo/DailYExpress)

Kampala, (UG):- Nutrition and diet experts at the Ministry of Health have called on government to regulate the uncontrolled consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks high in sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives cited as the leading cause of obesity and overweight in Ugandan learners.

The rallying call was made by the Director Public Health at the Ministry of Health, Dr Daniel Kyabayinze (who represented Director General Dr Henry Mwebesa) during a press briefing held on on Monday, June 17, to disseminate findings from a Dietary Assessment of School Learners in and around Kampala.

The study, jointly conducted by the Ministry’s Nutrition Department and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) sampled sixty (60) secondary schools in Kampala and the Metropolitan Area, focusing on learners aged 15 years and above to determine the quality of diet they undertake and suggestive measures for improvement of the same.

While Disseminating the findings from the Study at the Ministry of Health Headquarters in Kampala, Dr Kyabayinze attributed the increasing rate of obesity in young adults around Kampala to the high consumption of deep-fried foods, snacks and other foods that are salty and sugary in nature.

According to Dr Kyabayinze, learners, especially those in the boarding section, also consume more of Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) risky foods at the expense of NCD-protective foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.

“There was high consumption of foods that increase the risk of NCDs, where 7 in 10 learners consumed sweet foods and salty snacks, while 6 in 10, consumed deep fried foods,” he said, referring to the findings collected from the study.

He added; “The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends only 5 grams of salt per day, but it was found that learners sampled consume more than the recommended amounts which exposes them to NCDs like high blood pressure, heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, among other NCDs.”

The study therefore suggested the need to identify sustainable actions to improve the consumption of safe, nutritious, healthy, affordable, and diversified diets in schools, in accordance with the Parent-led School Feeding Guidance.

“The Issue is to lower the salt intake or other salts such as sodium chloride,” Dr Kyabayinze noted, before suggesting that learners should be advised to replace high salt consumption with chilli to prime their taste buds.

Mr Mazinga Mike, a consultant with GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) urged “partners and other nutrition stakeholders to come on board and work collaboratively with government to do the same kind of study in other schools apart from Kampala.”

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