Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been named among the top 10 countries globally for the highest rise in overweight and obese people under 20.
In a study published in medical journal Lancet, young Kuwaiti women recorded the biggest jump in weight gain at an 45.5 percent increase between 1980 and 2013.
Omani women under 20 were next highest at 42.3 percent, followed by young Saudi women at 37.4 percent.
Only Qatar was named in the top 10 countries for growing obesity among men under 20, with a 33.5 percent increase over the same time period.
The Pacific island nation of Kiribati topped the list for both men and women, with obesity increases of 47.7 percent and 66.1 percent respectively.
The findings have prompted renewed debate about the prevalence of obesity among children and young people.
Dr Thashli Thankachen from Lifeline Medical Centre in Muscat told the Muscat Daily that on average, 55-60 percent of his patients were overweight to obese.
“This can be attributed to low level of physical activities, unhealthy eating habits, and to a lesser extent endocrine disorders,” he said. “It is time that authorities, both in government and private systems, take steps in educating people in this regard before the situation gets out of hand.”
The study, which covered 188 countries and territories and was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found the percentage of adults with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25kg per metre cube or greater (over 30 is class 1 obesity, according to WHO) increased from 28.8 percent to 36.9 percent in men.
For women, it increased from 29.8 percent to 38 percent.
In April UAE-based healthcare provider NMC Healthcare announced the launch of the country's first Health Index which reveals that people believe they are fitter than they actually are.
The survey showed that 35 percent of the population exercises less than once per week, and one in five smokes tobacco (of whom a quarter smoke around a pack a day).
It also showed that more than half have a BMI (body mass index) score in the overweight or obese range.
Meanwhile, a leading US orthopedic surgeon told Arabian Business last year that a penchant for fast and fatty food and a lifestyle of late nights and no exercise were the main causes of the Gulf's obesity epidemic,.
Dr Raj 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.”
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