As much as 70 percent of Saudis are obese, a startling new survey has revealed.
The alarming figure also has caused the prevalence of diabetes to soar by 30 percent in the past decade, according to data released at an international obesity conference in Alkhobar and reported by Arab News.
Concerns were raised that health insurance typically does not cover obesity surgery, while obese people spent an estimated SR500m ($133.3m) a year on treatment for various associated health issues.
Obesity and diabetes is an increasing concern in the Gulf, with a United Nations report last year finding GCC citizens were among the fattest in the world.
Kuwait had the highest proportion of obese adults in the GCC, with 42.8 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia at 35.2 percent, half of the figure released in the kingdom on Sunday.
In the UAE, the UN identified 33.7 percent of the population as having a serious weight problem, while in Qatar it was 33.1 percent and Bahrain 32.6 percent.
Obesity was least prevalent in Oman, although at more than a fifth (22.1 percent), it was broadly in line with developed European countries.
A surgeon specialising in obesity, Ayed Al Qahtani, reportedly told the Saudi conference the kingdom’s Ministry of Health was developing a national strategy to combat obesity, and was in the process of setting up a national centre for obesity surgery at the King Fahd Medical City, with five similar centres across the kingdom in the pipeline.
The UAE also has banned supersized fizzy drinks as part of a raft of new health measures designed to reign in burgeoning obesity and lifestyle disease rates.
Several GCC states have bought over-sized ambulances to accommodate the increasing number of severely overweight people requiring transportation to hospital.
Last year, a morbidly obese Saudi Arabian man weighing 355kg had to be airlifted to Riyadh for emergency treatment a month after the Saudi Arabian Civil Defence was called in to transport a separate 300kg, 17-year old to hospital for treatment.
In September, it also was reported that the family of another 380kg obese Saudi man who died while on the way to Riyadh airport to be flown out of the kingdom for treatment was suing the Ministry of Health for negligence, claiming he was refused treatment for two years before his death.
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