Poor diet causing too many preventable deaths

NAIROBI: Early this month the Ministry of Health in conjunction with World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics released the first nationally representative survey on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

NCDs are the leading cause of death globally representing 63 per cent of all annual deaths. Almost three quarters of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries like Kenya. NCDs are responsible for one third of Africa’s disease burden.

Kenya has not been left behind. According to the Kenya stepwise survey for non-communicable diseases risk factors 2015, non-communicable diseases account for more than 50 per cent of hospital admissions and over 55 per cent of all deaths in Kenya.

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Poor dietary habit is a key risk factor to almost all non-communicable diseases. As a result of increased production of processed foods, rapid urbanisation and improved lifestyles, Kenyans have changed their food preference and eating habits to accommodate unhealthy diets high in fats, sugar and salt but low in fibre.

Adoption of western lifestyles has led many Kenyans, especially those in urban areas, to the consumption of fast foods seen as more convenient and at times as a much ‘classier’ option by a growing middleclass.

To improve overall health and reduce the risk of certain non-communicable illnesses like heart diseases, some type of cancer, diabetes and obesity, WHO recommends consumption of at least 400grams or five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

A serving of vegetable is equivalent to two  cups (of 250ml) of uncooked, or 1 cup cooked green leafy vegetables while a serving of fruits is equivalent to one medium whole fruit of half a cup of chopped fruits.


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According to the report, only six per cent of Kenyans consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables per day.

Fruits and vegetables are an integral part of a healthy diet. Inadequate intake causes poor health and increases the risk of non-communicable disease, including heart diseases and cancers. Inadequate fruits and vegetable consumption is among top 10 selected risk factors of global mortality with 1.7 million people dying every year due to conditions attributed to low fruits and vegetable consumption.

These two are loaded with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients crucial for normal body functions and for strengthening the body’s ability to fight diseases.

They also provide the body with antioxidants which work as a defence system against free radicals which otherwise would destroy healthy cells increasing the risk of chronic illness like cancer.

Plant-based foods are also the only source of phytonutrients, compounds that help prevent numerous disease in the human body.

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To meet the daily vegetables and fruits requirements, Kenyans should make deliberate effort to include vegetables in all the main meals, making sure they are the largest portions during meals.

And instead of high caloric processed foods we should learn to snack on fruits or vegetable cuttings when hungry in between main meals.

non-communicable diseasesKenyadiabetes