Almost 400,000 UAE kids likely to be obese by 2030: Study

obese, UAE kids likely

Out of a maximum of 11 points, the UAE scored 10.5, reflecting gravity of the healthcare issue.

Obesity among children is one of the biggest healthcare challenges for the UAE and a recent study has shown that the issue is bound to get more serious in the years to come.

The UAE has been found to be among the top 20 countries facing the highest risk of child obesity – along with Taiwan, Libya, Palestine, Marshall Islands and Cook Islands and other nations – over the next decade, according to the World Obesity Federation.

Out of a maximum of 11 points, the UAE scored 10.5, reflecting gravity of the healthcare issue.

Other major regional countries that face the highest risk of obesity are Bahrain, Egypt and Kuwait, among others.

As per 2017 data, around 23 per cent of UAE children between five and nine years old were obese.

The foundation predicted that the obesity rate among these five to nine-year-olds will reach 26.7 per cent by 2030 and around 21 per cent for teenagers between 10 and 19 years.

Moreover, by 2030, the number of obese five to nine-year-old children in the UAE is projected to reach 122,929 while those aged 10 to 19 years will be numbered around 255,644.

This will take the total tally of obese children from five to 19 years old to over 378,500.

Dr Hussam Mohammad Al Trabulsi, specialist bariatric surgeon at Medcare Hospital, said obesity is not only a ‘UAE epidemic’ but a worldwide challenge, with the heavy intake of “junk food” being the number one reason.

“Research in the UAE has also suggested a genetic background to obesity. Residents in the UAE are shown to have high intakes of carbohydrates in particular – mainly because of Middle Eastern diet patterns filled with rice and pastries,” said Dr Al Trabulsi.

A local study covering men under 30 found that 24.4 per cent were overweight and 28 per cent were obese. “It means young people are at high risk of not only diabetes, but also metabolic diseases.”

To rein in the rising obesity challenge, a wide range of solutions are available, the doctor said, with nutritional education being on top of the list.

“Residents need to be aware that though unhealthy food is available, it does not mean it is needed in their diet. They have to integrate fruits and vegetables, as well as moderate amount of exercise,” said Dr Al Trabulsi.

“In addition, smoking – especially ‘shisha’ – needs to be avoided, as smoking is also associated with high-calorie diets.”

Burn calories

Dr Sudheer Salavudeen, specialist general for bariatric and colorectal surgery at Aster Hospital, said that although there are genetic, behavioural, metabolic and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when people take in more calories than they burn through exercise and normal daily activities.

“Obesity can occur at any age, even in young children. But as you age, hormonal changes and a less active lifestyle increase your risk of obesity. In addition, the amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease with age.

“Generally, a lower muscle mass leads to a decrease in metabolism. These changes also reduce calorie needs and can make it harder to keep off excess weight. If you don’t consciously control what you eat and become more physically active as you age, you’ll likely gain weight,” Dr Salavudeen said.

He stressed that people with obesity are likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems including heart diseases and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, digestive problems, gynaecological and sexual problems, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.

“Other weight-related issues that may affect your quality of life include depression, disability, sexual problems, shame and guilt, social isolation and lower work achievement,” he added.