JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR | Arab News Staff
Published — Tuesday 26 February 2013
Last update 20 August 2013 8:28 pm
At least 20,000 people in Saudi Arabia die every year due to complications from obesity, said endocrinologist Dr. Waleed Albakr.
Albakr, who works at Dammam University, and is promoting an awareness campaign to educate Saudis on the dangers of diabetes. The campaign, “Lose your weight and gain your health,” notes diabetes is often caused by obesity.
“Obese people usually die 10 years before people with a normal weight,” he said. “People who have fat on their stomach are more likely to get diabetes and have a higher blood cholesterol level.”
Albakr said that 40 percent of Saudis are obese. People from the south are more fit than those in other regions of the Kingdom. “Studies show that women are more obese than men. This is because of the effect of hormones and the lack of sports and movement.” The indigenous Saudi population seems to have a special genetic predisposition to develop type two diabetes, he said. Citing a 2012 report, he said, Saudis are ranked third in the world when it comes to laziness. No less than 68.8 percent of Saudi people are inactive.
Only the people of Malta and Swaziland are more lethargic. On top of that, Saudis are competing with Kuwaitis and Americans for the highest number of obese people. This is further amplified by an increase in obesity rates, a high rate of consanguinity, or marriages between family members and the presence of other variables of the insulin resistance syndrome, said Dr. Aayed Alqahtani, associate professor and consultant of minimally invasive and obesity surgery at the College of Medicine. Dr Alqahtani, who is also founder and supervisor of the multidisciplinary obesity clinic at King Saud University and King Khalid University Hospital in Riyadh, conducted obesity surveys too.
“The prevalence of obesity ranges between 16-25 percent in men and 17-43 percent in women,” Alqahtani said. “The most prevalent chronic diseases related to obesity in these populations are diabetes and hypertension,” he said. His surveys found that out of 195,874 participants, the overall prevalence of obesity in Saudis was 43.8 percent, while 35.1 percent were overweight. The prevalence of underweight was 1.3 percent.
The peak prevalence of obesity was observed in the age group of 50-59 years,” he added.
To document the prevalence of obesity in Saudi Arabia, Alqahtani used data from a cross-sectional study on 19,598 individuals in 2,837 households.
“We found that the prevalence of obesity ranged from 33.9 percent in Hail to 11.7 percent in Jizan,” he said. “More women (23.6 percent) than men (14.2 percent) were obese. The data showed that 30.7 percent of the men and 28.4 percent of the women was overweight. We discovered that obesity was present in all age groups,” he said. “We also found that the mothers of obese and overweight children were usually less educated.”