A penchant for fast and fatty food and a lifestyle of late nights and no exercise are the main causes of the Gulf's obesity epidemic, according to a leading US orthopedic surgeon.
Dr Raj, who started a practice in Dubai nine months ago in addition to his successful Beverley Hills practice, said one of the biggest issues in the Middle East was knee problems, which was the result of people carrying extra weight.
“There’s two issues of genetics and environmental and we’re not controlling the environmental aspect as much,” Dr Raj, whose clients include royal family members and Hollywood celebrities, said.
“Life gets easier but people tend to get busier and not take care of their own bodies.”
A UN report released in July found populations in the Gulf had been rated as among the world’s fattest, with 42.8 percent of Kuwaitis classified as obese in 2008. It was followed by Saudi Arabia at 35.2 percent. In the UAE 33.7 percent of the population were identified as having a serious weight problem, while in Qatar it was 33.1 percent and Bahrain 32.6 percent.
Dr Raj, who prides himself of educating people on nutrition and overall health, said a key issue in the Middle East was lifestyle.
“Here, when it is 48C outside, it’s hard to ask for someone to run outside or swim, so you’re stuck almost hibernating inside,” he said.
“It’s so hot here, so people tend to eat later. People tend to function later and people tend to get up later in the morning. The later you eat, you combine it with a different type of lifestyle.”
Dr Raj said the Middle East also had more fatty-based foods.
“What surprises me, is this morning I went for a run outside, a four to five mile run. I saw two people and it was six in the morning,” he said.
“Lifestyle trends and fitness and nutrition, it should become a habit. Here, I don’t think it’s at that point yet, because the excuse is the heat and the excuse it the type of culture, too.
“People tend to stay up later at night here and it’s understandable, but you actually have to take a step back.”
Dr Raj said the more weight a person carried “the more and the faster your cartilage wears out”.
Dr Raj’s top three tips for healthy living was to drink plenty of water to both hydrate and not retain water; eat five small deals a day spaced two to three hours apart rather than big “extravagant” meals and leave at least four hours between eating dinner and going to sleep .
“When you sleep on a full stomach that food just sits there, your metabolism just shuts down,” he said.
“That simple change in a diet could mean 10 pounds (4.5kg) in one month.”