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      Overweight and obesity epidemic in Ghana—a systematic review and meta-analysis

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          In many low and middle income countries (LMICs), the distribution of adulthood nutritional imbalance is shifting from a predominance of undernutrition to overnutrition. This complex problem poses a huge challenge to governments, non-state actors, and individuals desirous of addressing the problem of malnutrition in LMICs. The objective of this study was to systematically review the literature towards providing an estimate of the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adult Ghanaians.


          This study followed the recommendations outlined in the PRISMA statement. Searches were performed in PubMed, Science Direct, google scholar, Africa Journals Online (AJOL) and the WHO African Index Medicus database. This retrieved studies (published up to 31st March 2016) that reported overweight and obesity prevalence among Ghanaians. All online searches were supplemented by reference screening of retrieved papers to identify additional studies.


          Forty-three (43) studies involving a total population of 48,966 sampled across all the ten (10) regions of Ghana were selected for the review. Our analysis indicates that nearly 43% of Ghanaian adults are either overweight or obese. The national prevalence of overweight and obesity were estimated as 25.4% (95% CI 22.2–28.7%) and 17.1% (95% CI = 14.7–19.5%), respectively. Higher prevalence of overweight (27.2% vs 16.7%) and obesity (20.6% vs 8.0%) were estimated for urban than rural dwellers. Prevalence of overweight (27.8% vs 21.8%) and obesity (21.9% vs 6.0%) were also significantly higher in women than men. About 45.6% of adult diabetes patients in Ghana are either overweight or obese. At the regional level, about 43.4%, 36.9%, 32.4% and 55.2% of residents in Ashanti, Central, Northern and Greater Accra region, respectively are overweight or obese. These patterns generally mimic the levels of urbanization. Per studies’ publication years, consistent increases in overweight and obesity prevalence were observed in Ghana in the period 1998–2016.


          There is a high and rising prevalence of overweight and obesity among Ghanaian adults. The possible implications on current and future population health, burden of chronic diseases, health care spending and broader economy could be enormous for a country still battling many infectious and parasitic diseases. Public health preventive measures that are appropriate for the Ghanaian context, culturally sensitive, cost-effective and sustainable are urgently needed to tackle this epidemic.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3901-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 113

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              Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.

              In 2010, overweight and obesity were estimated to cause 3·4 million deaths, 3·9% of years of life lost, and 3·8% of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) worldwide. The rise in obesity has led to widespread calls for regular monitoring of changes in overweight and obesity prevalence in all populations. Comparable, up-to-date information about levels and trends is essential to quantify population health effects and to prompt decision makers to prioritise action. We estimate the global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013. We systematically identified surveys, reports, and published studies (n=1769) that included data for height and weight, both through physical measurements and self-reports. We used mixed effects linear regression to correct for bias in self-reports. We obtained data for prevalence of obesity and overweight by age, sex, country, and year (n=19,244) with a spatiotemporal Gaussian process regression model to estimate prevalence with 95% uncertainty intervals (UIs). Worldwide, the proportion of adults with a body-mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m(2) or greater increased between 1980 and 2013 from 28·8% (95% UI 28·4-29·3) to 36·9% (36·3-37·4) in men, and from 29·8% (29·3-30·2) to 38·0% (37·5-38·5) in women. Prevalence has increased substantially in children and adolescents in developed countries; 23·8% (22·9-24·7) of boys and 22·6% (21·7-23·6) of girls were overweight or obese in 2013. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has also increased in children and adolescents in developing countries, from 8·1% (7·7-8·6) to 12·9% (12·3-13·5) in 2013 for boys and from 8·4% (8·1-8·8) to 13·4% (13·0-13·9) in girls. In adults, estimated prevalence of obesity exceeded 50% in men in Tonga and in women in Kuwait, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Libya, Qatar, Tonga, and Samoa. Since 2006, the increase in adult obesity in developed countries has slowed down. Because of the established health risks and substantial increases in prevalence, obesity has become a major global health challenge. Not only is obesity increasing, but no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years. Urgent global action and leadership is needed to help countries to more effectively intervene. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Research Unit, Health Policy Consult, P. O. Box WJ 537, Weija, Greater-Accra Ghana
                [2 ]Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, School of Public Health, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana
                [3 ]School of Public Health, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
                [4 ]Julius Global Health, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Centre, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
                ORCID:, +233 (0) 540228756 ,
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                9 December 2016
                9 December 2016
                : 16
                © The Author(s). 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2016

                Public health

                meta-analysis, ghana, non-communicable diseases, nutrition transition, obesity


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