Only 2.5 million Kenyans consume fruits while 5.4 million Kenyans are obese


NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 9 – The rise of non-communicable diseases in the country has largely been blamed on lifestyle and dietary patterns that Kenyans have adopted.

Only 2.5 million Kenyans, against a population of more than 40 million, consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables while 10.5 million Kenyans add salt to their food before or while eating.

In addition, 13 percent of Kenyans are obese with a majority being women at 8.9 percent and 4.3 percent being men. This translates to about 3.7 million women being obese and 1.8 million men.

These worrying findings were released by the Ministry of Health’s Division of Non Communicable Diseases on Friday and were based on a survey that was conducted between April and June last year.

“Unhealthy diets are a key risk factor for the development of these diseases. Kenyans should eat at least 5 or more portions of fruits and vegetables per day as recommended by the World Health Organisation,” said Health Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleopa Mailu.

Health Principal Secretary Dr. Nicholas Muraguri added that the Ministry would embark on a drive to create awareness and urge Kenyans to adopt healthier lifestyles.

He explained that it was important for the country to go slow on fast foods in order to prevent and manage the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.

“I have always wondered why Kenyans are constipated and it turns out that only six percent of us eat fruits and vegetables,” he said.

The Ministry of Health plans to strengthen the implementation of Kenya’s National Nutrition Action Plan 2012-2017 and ensure continuous engagement with the agricultural sector to promote healthy eating habits.

It also wants to introduce legislations on production, packaging and responsible marketing of food and drinks to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods.

Head of the Non Communicable Diseases Division Dr. Joseph Kibachio argued that Kenyans should be large consumers of fruits and vegetables owing to the fact that the country was a producer of agricultural products.

“Perhaps the only time we consume fruits is while sitting in traffic; when we buy a banana from the hawkers,” he quipped.

In addition, 98 percent of Kenyans have never had their cholesterol measured and 6.5 percent of Kenyans do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity.

The World Health Organisation recommends that adults aged between 18 and 64 years should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity.

“Implementing the physical activity tool kit in the country to encourage adoption of active lifestyles and to reduce sedentary lifestyles is important,” recommended the report.