Obesity and Diabetes Diseases Rise in UAE


An estimated 1 in 5 people in the UAE have Diabetes, 47.5% of UAE residents are overweight, with a BMI of between 25 and 30, while another 13 percent are obese.

Obesity has been recognized as a serious health issue in the UAE with statistics showing more than 66 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women including children & adults are overweight or obese. According to a study published by a BMC Public Health journal, the UAE ranks as the fifth fattest nation in the world, ranking behind other developed countries such as USA, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing the common type 2 of diabetes particularly if you have excess weight around your tummy (abdomen). Insulin is an important hormone that delivers glucose (sugar) to our cells. When a person is overweight, the cells in the body become less sensitive to the insulin that is released from the pancreas. There is some evidence that fat cells are more resistant to insulin than muscle cells. If a person has more fat cells than muscle cells, then the insulin becomes less effective overall, and glucose remains circulating in the blood instead of being taken in to the cells to be used as energy. This translates to insulin resistance and to persistently high concentrations of the sugar glucose in the blood — one of the sure signs of diabetes.

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Once associated with high-income countries, obesity is now also prevalent in low- and middle-income countries. Current statistics reveal that an average adult in the UAE consumes over 3000 calories per day, almost 20 per cent above the average. The recommended daily calorie consumption for adult men should be 2500 calories while woman should consume 2000 calories per day.

“Unhealthy lifestyle, hot weather, over eating, junk food, lack of physical activity, less hours of sleep & stress are some of the major contributors of the rising incident rates of obesity & diabetes. Obese people are 85 per cent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, which is lifestyle related. Fifty per cent of people who have diabetes, specially Type 2, don’t know they have it. So it’s very important to go for regular screening, “ said Dr. Jeong Jo Jeong, Consultant – Gastroenterology, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Endoscopy at Medeor 24×7 International Hospital, Al Ain who recognizes obesity as an issue with a strong correlation that leads to diabetes type 2. He further said, “Obesity is an issue that can affect UAE’s development as a nation and needs to be managed immediately and effectively. Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, blockage of arteries, cancer, skin diseases, osteoporosis and gout are the number of diseases that people with obesity are more likely to suffer from.”

Rising obesity levels have also led to a growth of a very lucrative cosmetic surgery market in the GCC. Arabian Gulf countries have the highest percentage of bariatric procedures (a variety of procedures used to treat obesity and diabetes Type 2) performed which include sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass and the placement of gastric band.

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