World Obesity Day: Almost 60 pct of Saudi population overweight, obese

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Almost 60 percent of Saudi Arabia’s adult population are either overweight or obese, according to the latest figures revealed ahead of World Obesity Day - but the Kingdom still fairs better than its GCC neighbors.

According to the Global Obesity Observatory, 20.2 percent of people in the Kingdom are classed as obese – having a Body Mass Index (a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) over 30 - while a further 38.2 percent are classed as overweight (a BMI over 25).

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However, Saudi Arabia has the least prevalence of obesity in the GCC.

Kuwait has the highest prevalence – with almost 80 percent of its population overweight or obese – followed by Bahrain (72.4 percent), Qatar (70.1 percent), the UAE (67.9 percent) and Oman (66.2 percent).

When it comes to children, 10.5 percent of the under-18 population in Saudi Arabia is either overweight or obese, compared to half (49.5 percent) of children in Kuwait.

The global prevalence of obesity has increased manifold in the past few decades and the Middle Eastern regions notably are reporting extremely high obesity rates. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity rates have nearly tripled since 1975 and five times in children and adolescents. It is a problem that affects people of all ages.

Sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical exercise and high calorie diets are common contributory factors to the increasing prevalence of obesity,

World Obesity Day is observed globally on March 4 with the view of promoting practical solutions to end the global obesity crisis.

In the UAE, doctors said more must be done to tackle the epidemic.

“Obesity is considered a disease of the age, and it is a disease that is spread all over the world,” Dr. Haitham Anwar Sawalmeh, a consultant in obesity surgery at the Prime Hospital, in Dubai, told Al Arabiya English. “It is a result of lifestyle changes in many societies, such as lack of physical activity, changing the quality of meals, and the availability of unhealthy foods.”

There are other causes of obesity, he said, including genetic and physiological factors.

“Obesity causes many diseases to all body systems and infects the patient with metabolic syndrome, which results in diabetes, high pressure, increased blood fats and cholesterol, hardening of blood vessels and heart attacks.”

“It also causes shortness of breath and night suffocation, as well ovarian cysts and is believed to be a cause of infertility in men and women, apart from diseases of the joints and spine as a result of excess weight.”

“Obesity also leads to depression, as well as depression leads to obesity.”

His view was echoed by Dr Rajesh Sisodiya, a specialist in general and laparoscopic surgery at the Saudi German Hospital in Sharjah.

“The time has come for a sustained effort to control the rising epidemic of obesity in our society,” he told Al Arabiya English. “We need to motivate our obese colleagues to comply with (healthier) diets.”

“They should also come forward for promising weight loss bariatric surgeries which have repeatedly proven better quality of life with control of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetic remission, and reduced morbidity from cardiac disease.”

“Our insurances and governance should come forward to support bariatric surgeries as it reduces total health care cost and brings a healthy society.”

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