Mr and Mrs Thomas Offiong reside in Kubwa, a satellite town in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The couple recently went to register their 10-year-old son, Dominic, at a gymnasium in Abuja city centre because the boy is overweight.
They are quite worried about the potential health risks of Dominic's physical condition, as the boy is already having serious breathing difficulties. Dominic weighs about 90kg and his weight has been a source of concern to his parents who, ironically, are both slim.
Mrs Offiong attributes Dominic's obesity to his unwholesome eating habits. "Dominic does not like eating normal food; he prefers cake, ice-cream, shawarma and all other sorts of junk foods. We used to indulge him with fast foods, not knowing the repercussions.
"However, we have stopped buying all that stuff for him; we now force him to eat vegetable-based foods and other meals with high protein content," she says.
All the same, Dominic's problem is not exceptional, as observers note that obesity has grown to become a global problem, particularly in the last decade.
For instance, a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that as far back as 2005, approximately 1.6 billion adults over the age of 15 years were overweight.
The report also indicated that not less than 400 million adults across the world were obese, while at least 20 million children under the age of five years were overweight.
Experts believe that if the current trend is allowed to continue, not less than 2.3 billion adults will be overweight by 2015, while more than 700 million adults will be critically obese.
The problem of obesity has stimulated a lot of serious consequences for individuals and government health systems. Strangely enough, a recent analysis by the Cable News Network (CNN) revealed that more than half of the population of Kuwait were obese, attributing the development to the Kuwaiti penchant for junk foods, following the establishment of world-class eateries such as Mc Donalds in that country.
The growing menace of obesity, perhaps, compelled the organisers of the fourth World Health Summit held in Berlin between Oct. 23 and Oct. 26, 2012 to make obesity one of the main themes of discussion at the summit.
Speaking at the summit, Annette Gruters-Kieslich, the Dean of ChariteUniversitatmedizin in Berlin, also stressed that the incidence of obesity was increasing across the world, particularly among children, citing Japan as one of the Asian countries that were mostly affected.
"When you go around the world, you will see that the rate of obesity and diabetes in children is increasing dramatically because of the change in nutrition.
"You will also find out that China and other Asian countries have failed in preventing this health condition, as many children in those countries are really obese," she said.
Besides, Gruters-Kieslich noted that nowadays, there were many cases involving children with Type 2 diabetes in Japan, whereas Type 2 diabetes was usually common in adults, as it was associated with older age.
Admitting that the Type 1 diabetes usually affected children and young adults, Gruters-Kieslich stressed that about 80 per cent of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes had overweight problems.
She, nonetheless, expressed hope that obesity was still preventable in Africa if the people were mobilised to adopt healthy dietary habits and engage in physical exercises.
On the causes of obesity, Gruters-Kieslich corrected the notion that the consumption of candies was a major risk factor, stressing that a major causative factor was the consumption of snack foods made from wheat flour.
She reiterated that the consumption of vegetables and fruits was one of the most potent ways of preventing obesity.
She said: "What African countries could do is to start with the early education of nursing mothers; they should give good nutrition to their babies early in life.
"They have to breastfeed their babies exclusively because the children's ingestion of baby formula heightens the risks of infection while it also predisposes the children to crave for sweet food.
"Mothers should also refrain from giving their children fast foods," she added.
Sharing similar sentiments, Dr Otumu Odianosen, a general practitioner, advised parents to make healthy changes to their family's lifestyle.
He said that parents could curtail childhood-obesity by providing nutritious foods for their children, while reducing the time the children spent on watching television and ensuring that they often slept well.
"Families should engage in regular physical activities such as walking, jogging or bicycling, while parents should encourage their children to participate in at least one sport such as tennis, gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, among others," he said.
Odianosen also underscored the need for families to eat wholesome meals, particularly those that were rich in proteins.
However, Mrs Angela Ndidi, a nutritionist, said that a person's age should be considered when discussing issues relating to obesity.
"This is because the older you get, the slower it is for your body to metabolise food and it does not require as many calories to maintain your weight," she said.
Besides, Ndidi said that women had a greater tendency to become obese than men, adding: "Men also have a higher resting metabolic rate than women.
"Resting metabolic rate is the energy required to perform vital body functions such as respiration and heart rate while the body is at rest. About 50 to 75 per cent of one's daily energy expenditure can be attributed to resting metabolic rate."
Dr Wole Thompson, an anaesthetic, said that women also had the risks of becoming obese because after reaching the stage of menopause, a woman's metabolic rate often decreased.
"That is partly why many women gain weight after menopause," he added.
Thompson also attributed obesity to genetic factors, saying that if one's parents were overweight, there was 75 per cent chance that one would also become overweight.
He also noted that the ingestion of certain medication, such as steroids and antidepressants, might induce obesity.
To curb the rising menace of obesity in the society, experts stress the need for every member of the society to brace to the challenge and fight the menace by adopting healthy lifestyles.