UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt among top 10 countries with high diabetes rates

Nielsen surveyed 400 diabetics from each of the three countries

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Despite the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt being among the top 10 most prevalent countries for diabetes, the vast majority of those surveyed are still using white sugar as part of their daily diet, a Nielsen study commissioned by Splenda low calorie sweetener revealed.

Nielsen surveyed 400 diabetics from each of the three countries in order to gain insights into the attitudes of those who live with the condition and the caregivers who look after them. While some of the findings were encouraging, many believe that ‘living for today’ and ‘being carefree’ is preferable to changing their lifestyles.


White sugar was consumed at least once a day by more than half of those in Saudi Arabia & Egypt and by one third of those in UAE.

“We have made huge strides in making people aware of diabetes and made many lives more comfortable and the disease more manageable,” said Dr. Naseeb al-Shibli, General Surgery. “But as this study shows, we also need to educate people’s minds on the dangers and consequences of ignoring it. Attitudes can be very difficult change but this report is an extremely valuable start. We know where to begin and we can target those who need the most advice.”

A separate report from Life Scan showed that the vast majority of diabetics were either unaware, ‘complacent’ or ‘half-hearted’ in their approach to managing the condition. Dr. Shibli believes that there is a long-standing cultural relationship between the Middle East and sugar which has led to a habit that is hard to break.

“Moving away from the traditional sugar-rich meals and sweet hot drinks would make a significant starting point. There are low calorie sugar alternatives which require no extra effort to prepare and are indistinguishable from sugar itself.”

The Nielsen findings further showed that while advice from doctors is the number one priority for managing the disease, family support provides the ongoing care that makes the greatest daily difference. Whether the diabetics were ‘complacent’, ‘half-hearted’ or ‘committed’ in managing their diabetes, the household’s mother was the primary caregiver across all three countries.

“Family members play an essential role in the well-being of their diabetic relatives and decision-making in their diet. It is vital that all of those care givers also receive the maximum support,” said Shibli.

“Every diabetes sufferer is an individual who needs unique care,” he added. “But there are certain criteria which we all need to monitor as starting points. We could be more prone to diabetes if we are over 40 years of age, have a family history of diabetes, are overweight, have a poor diet, smoke, do little exercise and have high blood pressure. These are some of the preliminary signs and if any of those match, it is always a good option to get screened for diabetes at your nearest clinic. Diabetes can’t be cured, but it can be managed to live a full life.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on March 12, 2015.

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