Screening for total and abdominal obesity among University of Venda students
The importance of total body fat and distribution has been stressed as a major risk factor for both adults and children. There is paucity of information concerning total and abdominal obesity among university students in South Africa. The purpose of this study was to screen for total and abdominal obesity among university of Venda health sciences students, using the proxy measures of body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). A stratified random sample of 389 (199 males and 199 females) university students aged 19-24 years, participated in the study. Height, weight, waist and hip circumferences were measured using standard techniques. Body mass index was calculated by dividing body mass by stature in meters squared. The WHO criteria were used to determine BMI categories, while WHtR was calculated by dividing waist circumference (in cm) by stature (in cm). A WHtR ≤ 0.50 was used to determine abdominal obesity. The mean age, BMI and WHtR of the participants were 20.8±2.1, 23.8±4.6 and 0.54±0.1, respectively. Overall, 7.5%, 21.4% and 11.1% of the students were underweight, overweight and obese, respectively. The percentage of students who were overweight was higher in females (11.7%) than males (9.7%), whereas obesity occurred more among the males (6.2%) compared with the females (4.9%). Underweight was 4.4% and 3.1% for females and males, respectively. A total of 102 students (19.2%) had central obesity as determined by WHtR. The proportion of males with a WHtR ≥ 0.5 was 59 (11.1%), while females were 43 (8.1%), with the males having statistically significant (p=0.001) WHtR compared to females. The prevalence of total and abdominal obesity is high among the University of Venda students; which is worrisome, given the health consequences of excessive body fat. Intervention measures should be instituted to address the rising trend of overweight and obesity in the students.
Keywords: Total and abdominal obesity, body mass index, waist-to-height ratio, university students.