One in four – 25 per cent – adult expat residents were obese, while one in three – 33 per cent – adult Emiratis are overweight, according to a new study.

The latest data released by the World Obesity Federation showed that nearly 40 per cent of children were living with overweight or obesity in the UAE, while 7,622 adult deaths were linked to non-communicable diseases due to overweight or obesity in 2019.

The study found that the economic impact of overweight was $12 billion annually.

It is projected that by 2035 almost 7.5 million adults, children and adolescents will be living with obesity problems in the UAE, increasing the cost to $30.7 billion.

By 2035, nearly 700,000 children and adolescents will be living with overweight or obesity – nearly 400,000 boys and over 300,000 girls.

The study projected that even more alarming is that around 66,127 children will have high blood pressure and 24,815 will be suffering hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) and 69,640 will have low HDL cholesterol due to overweight and obesity.

The economic impact of obesity in the UAE will rise to almost 5 per cent of the GDP by 2035, underlining the urgent need for national and local public health initiatives to alter the current trajectory.

“The cost of business as usual with obesity, with fragmented and siloed efforts here as in most countries, means the UAE is expected to see a continued rise in the numbers of people living with obesity and increases in the economic impact of disability and death associated with the disease,” said Johanna Ralston, CEO at the World Obesity Federation.

“The UAE has made a start and is armed with this new data. It is time to take decisive steps to turn the tide on the obesity epidemic. This data is an excellent opportunity for policymakers to implement new strategies aimed at reducing obesity and its associated economic burdens,” said Ralston.

By 2060, obesity is projected to be as high as 66.48 per cent in men and 64.21 per cent in women if the status quo continues.

Not recognising obesity as a disease

World Obesity Day is marked globally on March 4 to raise awareness and advocate for practical solutions to addressing the global obesity crisis.

“Despite laudable efforts in the UAE to address overweight and obesity in recent years, from making women’s fitness options accessible to all to the implementation of an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and a focus on food standards in schools, experts suggest that there is room for more to be done,” said the World Obesity Federation.

Dr Sara Suliman, consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist in Abu Dhabi at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, said the UAE has established standards of care for obesity management since 2008. “However, as a region with some of the highest rates of obesity, we have initiated a working group - soon to become a registered society - with the support of the World Obesity Federation to produce unified guidelines, supporting education and raising awareness of obesity and how best to tackle it,” she said.

“The main barriers to obesity management include recognition of obesity as a disease, education of healthcare professionals as well as the affected individuals and their families, clear management guidelines and support from all sectors involved in the prevention and management of obesity,” she was quoted as saying by the World Obesity Federation.

Obesity increases with age

The study found that generally, combined overweight and obesity increases with age in the adult UAE population.

The trend is more prominent in women, where prevalence rises from 48.9 per cent in 18-29-year-olds to 80.6 per cent in 60-69-year-olds. Over half of women between 60-69 years of age are living with obesity. In contrast, obesity prevalence in men is relatively stable across age groups.

The study also found that 82.8 per cent of adults eat less than five servings of fruit and/or vegetables on average per day, while 70.8 per cent of adults have insufficient physical activity. Around 88 per cent of adults are covered by some form of health insurance, and most of those who are not covered are non-nationals.

Copyright © 2022 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (