Open Access Research article

Obesity epidemic has emerged among Nigerians

Sally N Akarolo-Anthony12*, Walter C Willett13, Donna Spiegelman34 and Clement A Adebamowo125

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA

2 Office of Strategic Information and Research, Institute of Human Virology, Abuja, Nigeria

3 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA

4 Department of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA

5 Institute of Human Virology and Greenebaum Cancer Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2014, 14:455  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-455

Published: 15 May 2014



Data from the WHO shows that the prevalence of overweight and obesity increased by ~20% between 2002 and 2010 in Nigeria. We conducted this study to examine the correlates of this fast growing epidemic.


We conducted a cross-sectional study among a random sample of 1058 adults, who were visitors and staff of a government worksite in Abuja, an urban city in Nigeria. The study participants had varying socio-economic status and a wide range of occupations, including skilled labor and professionals. Log-binomial regression models were used to estimate the multivariable-adjusted associations of potential determinants with the prevalence of overweight and obesity.


The mean age and body-mass index of the study population were 42 years ± (9.3) and 27 kg/m2 ± (4.8). The overall prevalence of overweight or obesity (body-mass index ≥ 25 kg/m2) was 64% (74% of the women and 57% of the men). For women compared to men, the prevalence ratio (PR) and (95% confidence interval, CI) was 1.24 (95% CI 1.08, 1.43, p = 0.004), for overweight, and 2.54 (95% CI 2.08, 3.10, p = <0.0001), for obesity. Individuals aged 40 – 49 years were more likely to be overweight or obese. The PR for overweight and obesity was 1.45 (95% CI 1.07, 1.97), p for age trend = 0.002 and 8.07(95% CI 3.01, 21.66, p for age trend = <0.0001) for those aged 40 – 49 years, compared with those aged <30 years. Compared with the individuals in the lower socio-economic status, the PR for obesity among those in the middle and high socio-economic statuses, were 1.39 (95% CI 1.13, 1.72) and 1.24 (95% CI 0.97, 1.59) respectively, p for trend = 0.003.


About two-thirds of urban, professional, high socio-economic status Nigerian adults are either overweight or obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among this population of adult Nigerians, is as high as it is in the United Kingdom. Female gender and older age were independent predictors of overweight and obesity; while middle or high socio-economic status were independently associated with obesity.

Overweight; Obesity; Nigeria