Obesity in African women in the North West Province, South Africa is associated with an increased risk of non-communicable diseases: the THUSA study. Transition and Health during Urbanisation of South Africans

Br J Nutr. 2001 Dec;86(6):733-40. doi: 10.1079/bjn2001469.


The objective of the present study was to assess the relationship between anthropometric measurements and risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCD) in South African black women. A cross-sectional sample of 1040 apparently healthy black female volunteers, 15-70 years old, was recruited from thirty-seven randomly selected sites in the North West Province, stratified according to level of urbanisation. We analysed the association between BMI, waist:hip (WHR), waist circumference (WC) and skinfold measurements and the following risk factors for NCD: blood pressure, serum lipids, fasting serum glucose and insulin and plasma fibrinogen, by using age-adjusted correlation analyses and stepwise regression analysis. Of the subjects, 28.6 % were obese (BMI>30). After adjustment for age and smoking status, BMI correlated significantly with diastolic blood pressure (r 0.21, P=0.037), serum triacylglycerols (TG) (r 0.30, P=0.003), fasting glucose (r 0.29, P=0.005) and log fasting insulin (r 0.24, P=0.02). There was a significant negative correlation between BMI and HDL-cholesterol (r -0.38, P<0.001). Similar but stronger correlations were found between both WC and WHR and these risk factors. Together with age, WC was a significant predictor of TG, HDL-cholesterol and fasting glucose in regression analysis, while subscapular skinfold was a significant predictor of diastolic blood pressure and fasting glucose concentration. Triceps skinfold was a significant predictor of total serum cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, plasma fibrinogen and the insulin sensitivity index. Measures of obesity, particularly WC, are associated with the risk for NCD in black South African women, in which a high rate of obesity has been found.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fibrinogen / analysis
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Lipids / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • South Africa / epidemiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Fibrinogen