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The national demon is obesity

Obesity in the GCC

The persistent, hot weather of the UAE has fostered a lifestyle that mostly focuses on indoor activities.

August 1, 2013 4:06 by

The demon that is creeping up on your child is not under the bed or hiding inside the depths of your closet. It does not have a horrendous appearance that will scare you away. The most dangerous attribute of this demon is its silent pursuit and it has gradually taken control of our lives. Obesity is the national demon of the UAE.

A recent report by the United Nations identified 33.7 per cent of the UAE population as having severe weight issues. These issues are associated with low prices of food, an increase in the use of processed foods and hereditary factors. The result is evident in the International Diabetes Federation’s forecast in 2012, which states that 20 per cent of the UAE population is a victim to lifestyle related diseases, such as diabetes.

The GCC has seen consistent growth in population, per capita income and wealth, since the discovery of oil in the 1960s. The economic growth in the region is however, coupled with increasing nutrition related health problems and diseases. Chronic non-transferrable illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes have become serious concerns for many in this region.

The World Health Report in 2002 attributed diabetes to obesity and explained that these diseases may occur at a young age due to adolescent obesity. The measured blood pressure ratings indicated the UAE and Saudi Arabia as having the largest incidences of hypertension. This is majorly due to extensive imports of pre-packaged and processed foods.

Moreover, parental perception of what constitutes obesity may also be an important factor in its development among children. A research study conducted on a sample of the Emirati population, by doctors in leading medical institutions and universities in the UAE, yielded high parental misperception of obesity. Nearly 61.9 per cent of parents of obese children misclassified their children’s weight status by underestimating it.

The persistent, hot weather of the UAE has fostered a lifestyle that mostly focuses on indoor activities. This sedentary, screen life accounts for the lack of physical activity, and when combined with overeating habits, becomes a deadly combination.

Obesity is a sneaky demon because it is the leading cause of a multitude of diseases that develop steadily over a long period of time. Although the UAE government and health sectors have taken initiatives to battle obesity and promote awareness, evidently a lot more needs to be done to defeat this demon and improve the statistics.

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