Joint Publications

Foods procured, nutritional status and dietary intake of people living in South Africa: Desktop review

Published by National Department of Health, DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security

The estimated population of 58.8 million South Africans live in a country that is regarded as nationally food secure, but the divide in terms of access to resources and high unemployment continues to render a significant proportion of citizens food insecure and at nutritional risk. In addition, urbanisation is contributing to changed livelihoods and diets in both rural and urban areas. Food acquisition is primarily dependent on cash in food systems that are being transformed through the penetration of formal retail, international trade and globalisation.

In most parts of South Africa, subsistence agriculture has been eroded as a result of apartheid land policies and overcrowding. Inadequate agricultural extension services have resulted in even remote rural households increasingly relying on processed food from the formal food and retail system. Over the last 20 years, South Africa has experienced a significant nutrition transition, with the changing food systems fueling the rate of transition. The prevalence of obesity has increased drastically and currently co-exists with stagnant, high levels of stunting.

The nutrition transition has resulted in an increased intake of nutrients of concern like sugar, salt and saturated fats globally and it is assumed this picture is mirrored in South Africa. In the absence of national dietary intake data, Mchiza et al. concluded that energy and macronutrient intakes range from low in certain studies and adequate to high in urban areas. Consequently, the prevalence of hypertension, overweight, obesity and other non-communicable diseases are on the increase in adults. The formulation of strategies to arrest the obesity trend and the monitoring of progress with respect to existing interventions are dependent on up-to-date and comprehensive dietary intake information.

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