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DIABETIC DANGER: The Dark Side of the Gulf’s Economic Boom

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Oil wealth has given Kuwait and nearby countries in the Gulf some of the highest per capita incomes in the world. But it has also created lifestyles - overeating, high-sugar diets, cushy jobs and heavy reliance on automobiles for transport - that are leading to an explosion of diabetes in the region

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July 7, 2012 5:38 by



Dhari al-Fadli, a patient being treated at a diabetes clinic in Kuwait, is a victim of the dark side of his country’s economic boom.

 

After his weight hit a peak of 123 kg (271 pounds), Fadli developed such serious diabetes that he had to inject himself with insulin before every meal. Helped by the insertion of a gastric balloon into his stomach to reduce hunger, he has now lost enough weight to stop the injections, but still has to take diabetic medication.

 

“We’re all overweight in my family…We have a saying that if you don’t have diabetes, you’re not a Kuwaiti,” said Fadli, a 49-year-old father of five.

 

In fact, more than one in five Kuwaitis suffer from the disease.

 

Oil wealth has given Kuwait and nearby countries in the Gulf some of the highest per capita incomes in the world. But it has also created lifestyles – overeating, high-sugar diets, cushy jobs and heavy reliance on automobiles for transport – that are leading to an explosion of diabetes in the region, experts say.

 

Five of the 10 countries where diabetes is most prevalent are located in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), an umbrella organisation of more than 200 national associations.

 

Kuwait is No. 3 while Qatar is sixth, Saudi Arabia seventh, Bahrain eighth and the United Arab Emirates No. 10. The rest of the top 10 are Pacific island nations with much smaller populations, apart from Lebanon which comes in fifth.

 

A staggering 21.1 percent of people in Kuwait are diabetes sufferers while prevalence rates are around 20 percent in other GCC countries, IDF figures show. In the United States, the rate is 9.6 percent; worldwide, it is 8.5 percent.

 

The problem is so widespread in Kuwait, said Abdulmuhsen al-Shammari, an endocrinologist working at Mubarak al-Kabeer Hospital in the country, that “it is now normal for half a dinner party to be diabetic and for them to ask for each other’s medication after they eat”.



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