Arab childhood obesity soars, new figures reveal

A new study has found that roughly one in five kids in the Mideastern are obese. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 12 October 2017

Arab childhood obesity soars, new figures reveal

LONDON: Arab children are among the most obese on the planet according to a new study published in the Lancet.

The world-famous medical journal revealed that roughly one in five kids in the region are obese.

The findings are part of a vast study using more than 40 years of data.

As many as 19.7 percent of Saudi boys are classified as obese — compared to just 1.3 percent in 1975. About 14.2 percent of girls in the Kingdom are thought to be obese compared to 1.2 percent in 1975.

There is a similar picture in the UAE with 18.5 percent of boys described as obese and 14.7 percent of girls.

More than 19 percent of Egyptian girls are also considered obese compared to just 2 percent in 1975.

The Middle East recorded one of the largest absolute increases in the number of children with obesity. Back in 1975, the starting point for the study, the prevalence of obesity in children across the region was less than 5 percent.

The number of obese children and adolescents globally rose to 124 million in 2016 — more than 10 times higher than the 11 million classified as obese 40 years ago, in 1975.

Dr. James Bentham, one of the authors of the study, said that the increase could be put down to a rise in unhealthy lifestyles and people becoming less mobile.

“What we’re seeing is that in middle-income countries like those in the Middle East, Latin America, China, South Africa, the rates of obesity are going up much more quickly than in high-income countries like the US and France,” he told Arab News.

“We know that it must be due to a combination of more calories being consumed and less activity.

“There’s been a general move globally toward carbohydrates and sugar, and toward larger portion sizes. At the same time, car ownership has gone up hugely over 40 years in the Middle East for example — this means that people are doing far less exercise.”

Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE have hiked taxes on sugary drinks this year in an attempt to tackle a region-wide obesity epidemic.

Worldwide, there has been a more than ten-fold increase in the number of children and adolescents with obesity in the past four decades, increasing from five million girls in 1975 to 50 million in 2016, and from six million to 74 million boys.

Due to the link between childhood obesity and illness late in life, Bentham stressed the need to combat the problem, emphasising that it would not be easy.

“The lesson is that there is a serious obesity problem (around the world). We need to make unhealthy foods less attractive — this could be by putting taxes on them, restricting advertising, and through public information campaigns,” he said.

“At the same time, we need to make health food attractive — this could be through subsidies, for example.

“We hope that people will act, given how serious childhood overweight and obesity is for these children’s futures.”


Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins buried 2,500 years ago in Egyptian tomb

Updated 4 min 2 sec ago

Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins buried 2,500 years ago in Egyptian tomb

  • Egyptian antiquities officials believe the discovery to be the largest of its kind in the region

CAIRO: Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered 27 coffins that were buried more than 2,500 years ago in a pharaonic cemetery.

The sarcophagi were found at the Saqqara site in the governorate of Giza, south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Egyptian antiquities officials believe the discovery to be the largest of its kind in the region. Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3,000 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Initial studies indicate that the coffins and shrouds inside have remained tightly sealed since burial, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

The discovery was part of an Egyptian dig in the Saqqara area which unearthed an 11-meter-deep well containing colorfully painted wooden coffins stacked on top of each other along with other smaller artefacts.

Khaled Al-Anani, the Egyptian minister of antiquities, postponed announcing the discovery until he could visit the site himself, where he thanked teams for working in difficult conditions.

Ahmed Abdel Aziz, a professor of pharaonic archeology at a private university, said: “This new discovery is not the first in the Saqqara archaeological area. Archaeological discoveries have increased over the past years which draw attention to this region.

“This prompted many archaeological missions from many countries to work in this region, trying to probe the depths of this region and the treasures hidden inside it.”

Al-Anani said the increase in archaeological discoveries and the number of projects recently implemented by the Ministry of Antiquities were down to political will and exceptional support from the Egyptian government.

He pointed out the importance of resuming the work of 300 archaeological missions from 25 countries after a hiatus of a number of years, including some working in Egypt for the first time such as the joint Egyptian Chinese archaeological mission.

There were about 50 Egyptian missions working at sites in governorates throughout the country and Al-Anani praised their efforts in helping to unearth more evidence of ancient Egyptian civilization.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, said that Saqqara was one of the most promising historical areas when it came to archaeological discoveries, adding that he planned to continue working in the area with his mission members to uncover more secrets and treasures of the past.

He noted that new finds during the current excavation season would have a positive impact on tourism in Egypt at locations such as Giza, Saqqara, Luxor, and Aswan.

Mohamed Abdel Hamid, vice president of the Egyptian Association for Tourism and Archaeological Development, said that the discovery was a testament to the architectural development of the area that could be seen in King Djoser’s collection. The pharaoh was found in a step pyramid which was the first tomb in Egypt to be built using stones.

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