Saudi Arabia losing battle of the bulge

Updated 11 January 2017
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Saudi Arabia losing battle of the bulge

JEDDAH: One-third of the Saudi population is obese. And if the trend of minimal physical activity mixed with the proclivity to eat cheap processed food continues the pounds will only pile on.
But Saudi Arabia is not alone, as every country worldwide is experiencing a spike obesity rates.
The startling data comes from a group of health scientists, who recently released a single study published by the Lancet Medical Journal that compiled data from 1,698 studies in 186 countries and 19.2 million participants.
The study, which uses the standardized Body Mass Index (BMI) chart to determine the average weight of men and women, covers obesity rates from 1975 to today.
It found that if the trend in rising obesity continues, an estimated average of 18 percent of all men and more than 21 percent of all women would be obese by 2025. Severe obesity will surpass 6 percent in men and 9 percent in women.
The study also found that Saudi Arabia had an obesity rate in 1975 of 14.2 percent of the population. Today it is 33.5 percent, second to Qatar in the Gulf region, which in 1975 had a 14.9 percent obesity rate that mushroomed to 36.9 percent today.
In contrast, Japan had a rate of 1.1 percent in 1975 and 3.3 percent today. North Korea barely budged, recording a 1.6 percent rate 41 years ago and now is recorded at 2.8 percent.
Wejdan Kutb, a dietician at the Maroom Medical Center in Jeddah, said it has only been recently that Saudis became aware that obesity could be dangerous.
“The lack of awareness about the risks of obesity among people is a contributing factor,” Kutb said. “Many believe that obese people struggle psychologically and appearance-wise. However, people used to be unaware of the diseases that accompany obesity, such as heart diseases, diabetes and blood pressure. Now, awareness started to increase in our society.”
As alarming as the Saudi Arabia’s figures are, the study provides little context in what leads Saudis to gain so much weight.
The climate alone, often exceeding 35 degrees centigrade on many days year-round, is a major contributing factor to people living a sedentary lifestyle with few opportunities aside from the gym to get exercise.
“Living in Saudi Arabia plays a role in the growing proportion of obesity due … high temperatures and lack of transportation accessibility to everyone, and the lack of health clubs in all districts,” said Jeddah dietician Vivian Wehbe.“Not all women can provide drivers to join the gym and this causes hindrance in keeping their bodies fit.”
Dr. Rowaidah N. Idriss, executive director of the Nutri Life Center for Healthy Meals, said the food industry has changed dramatically over the decades that has contributed to the epidemic.
She said that food was once produced or planted by families, which has since evolved in manufactured foods containing an abundance of sugar, salt and artificial flavors.
“Even the agriculture and livestock industry are affected by genetic engineering and antibiotics and hormone injections, which led to messing up the hormones in the human body, and therefore, affected people’s weight significantly,” Idriss said.
The lifestyles among Saudis changed as well, she said. Families, once dependent on physical activity to perform household chores, have now given way to machines and housekeepers.
Dr. Idriss also said that electronic devices and snacking go hand in hand. Television was once relegated to a specific time of the day, but 24-hour programming encourages people to spend more time in front of the screen while eating more snacks for a longer period without engaging in physical activity, she said.
Perhaps a more subtle form of generating maximum profits is the strategy to offer “super size” meals to fast-food customers by selling a larger drink and larger order of french fries for a few extra riyals. McDonalds led the fast-food industry in super-sizing meals, but phased out the incentive to buy and eat more in 2004 to simplify its menu and because it was receiving intense pressure from nutritionists.
Yet super-sizing has not quite left fast-food menus in many restaurants in Saudi Arabia.
“Attractive offers provide an opportunity to eat larger amounts of food that exceed our body’s needs,” said Idriss, adding that cheap food has made it affordable for people to purchase more.
While Saudis are becoming more aware of the health hazards associated with obesity, their knowledge is still lacking.
There is a misconception among people that the sugar they consume will be burned once they exercise, Kutb said.
However, carbohydrates and sugar turn into fat once they enter the body and it’s difficult to burn it off.
Kutb sees encouraging signs, though.
“The consumption of dates in our communities is very, very high,” she said.
“However, due to our awareness nowadays, people started to consume less amounts or at least eat them as a whole meale like at breakfast with milk or yogurt to form an integrated meal.”


Riyadh Eid festivities draw more than 1.5 million visitors

Updated 19 June 2018
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Riyadh Eid festivities draw more than 1.5 million visitors

  • The diversity of events the municipality provided this year offered plenty of choice to the capital’s residents and visitors.
  • The garden of King Fahd Library which received visitors over the three days of Eid witnessed interactive and entertainment shows.

JEDDAH: Riyadh municipality Eid Al-Fitr activities attracted more than 1.5 million visitors, residents and citizens over the three-day holiday.
The diversity of events the municipality provided this year offered plenty of choice to the capital’s residents and visitors.
The municipality hosted 200 functions in 30 different locations across the city. It distributed thousands of presents, balloons and candy to children to encourage them to attend Eid prayers and to bring joy to their hearts.
Riyadh’s Eid festivities in Qasr AL-Hokm included the Saudi traditional folk-dance show, activities and competitions for children, as well as folk arts and poetry shows.
The garden of King Fahd Library which received visitors over the three days of Eid witnessed interactive and entertainment shows, as well as artistic activities and sports competitions.
Riyadh municipality organized five theater shows for men and women, including two for men: Shekka Wa Noss, and Tersam Al-Wahch; two plays for women: Banat Al-Social and Umm Suwaileh Al-Sawaqa, and an open play, Al-Qarya Al-Maghdoura.
Riyadh municipality also organized three theater shows for the blind and deaf.
“Al-Qarya Al-Maghdoura” (The Betrayed Village), the first open-theater show in the Kingdom, was held in the showroom of Al-Jazeera neighborhood. It was written, directed and played by Saudis.
The municipality allocated several events and locations for the participation of humanitarian organizations by receiving them and setting private seats for them, in coordination with the Saudi Association for Deaf.
It also organized a special program to entertain women and children over the three days of Eid. The events for women included plays, free drawing and coloring sessions, artifacts and competitions.
Carnival marches were launched in the north and west of Riyadh, by 300 cartoon characters and featured the participation of touring folk groups, along with a solidarity march with soldiers, as well as classic car shows.
The capital’s residents and visitors enjoyed fireworks that lasted 10 minutes and colored the sky of Riyadh at King Fahd International Stadium, a location near King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) and a location near Wadi Leban Bridge in west Riyadh.