Over 20,000 obesity-related deaths in Saudi Arabia annually: SDEA

The Saudi Diabetes and Endocrine Association has said it expects a dramatic increase in the number of children with diabetes in the Kingdom

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The Saudi Diabetes and Endocrine Association (SDEA) has said it expects a dramatic increase in the number of children with diabetes in the Kingdom because there are currently around 3 million obese adults and children in the country, Al-Hayat daily reported.

The obesity rate is increasing despite the government's drive to combat the trend through health education in schools.

The number of deaths in the Kingdom of obesity-related diseases has reached 20,000 annually.

The SDEA in the Eastern Province has warned the high rate of obesity and type II diabetes, as the percentage of adults with diabetes in the Kingdom reached 25 percent of the population.

The SDEA pointed out that obesity and diabetes threaten the public health and the national economy in many countries of the world and the region is no exception.

According to global statistics, there are 1.7 billion obese people around the world, which constitutes a heavy financial burden on governments and increases the prevalence of obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart diseases, stroke and some types of cancer."

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, the SDEA called for urgent action to contain the problem of obesity, and this includes changes in life style, such as eating a healthy diet and regular exercise, losing excess weight and controlling emotions.

Scientific studies have proven that more than half of type II diabetes can be avoided by implementing positive life style changes, stressing the role of the family, especially parents, in implementing a healthy behavior code for the whole family.

"The roles of schools, the media, municipalities, the Ministry of Health, Youth Welfare, the Food and Drugs Authority and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry are also very important to support healthy living," SDEA said.

Secretary-General of SDEA Dr. Kamel Salamah considered daily exercise essential for the entire family. He said the best exercise is a walk at a moderate pace for about half an hour daily.

"Cycling and swimming are also recommended, as exercise contributes to improving the overall health of the community members, and to building the body's immunity against many diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high lipids and some forms of cancer, in addition to reducing incidence of heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. It also helps in reducing stress," he said.

Salamah stressed the need for healthy and balanced eating. He advised to include dairy products that are low-fat, vegetables, salads and fruit in one's diet and reduce the intake of sugars and sweets, in addition to cutting down the intake of saturated fats.

He asked to avoid fried food, remove grease and fat from meat and poultry, and to replace sweets with fresh fruit and soft drinks with unsweetened juices.

"Investing in health by eating a healthy diet and exercise, not smoking, drinking alcohol, and maintaining an ideal weight is a solid wall in fight against many non-communicable diseases," he said.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.