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Sun 22 Aug 2010 09:29 AM

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Obesity rate among Saudi men and women hits 70%

Increased number of fast food restaurants one reason behind expanding waistlines.

Obesity rate among Saudi men and women hits 70%
QUICK BITE: The growing number of fast food chains in the kingdom is causing waistlines to expand. (Getty Images)

The growing number of fast food restaurants across Saudi Arabia has been blamed for the country’s rising obesity rate, the Saudi Gazette reports on Sunday.

Figures released by the Saudi Diabetes and Endocrinology Society said 70 percent of the kingdom’s local population are classed as obese.

A recent study found that among middle-aged people, 34 percent of men and 45 percent of women were obese.

Factors contributing to the rise were reported to be an increase in wages, the spread of fast-food restaurants, a change in nutrition habits and too little physical activity, according to the report.

Dr. Basim Fota, head of the Society’s Health Education Unit, told the paper a four-fold increase in the amount of fat in people’s current diets was also to blame for growing waistlines.

Obesity is not a problem unique to Saudi Arabia with rates escalating across the world. More than 1 billion adults are classed as overweight and at least 300 million clinically obese, according to figures from the World Health Organisation.

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Thomas 10 years ago

If only the reporter could do simple maths the problem might not seem so bad. 34% of men + 45% of women = 40% of Saudi Men and Women!! Still that wouldn't be sensational enough maybe...... However, a bad figure nonetheless - bless Ronald McD...

Stranger 10 years ago

70% is wrong... there is something completely wrong about that statistic. However, obesity must be on the rise in Saudi because frankly there is not much going on over there. If you are not married, you have no choice but to eat or race your car in the desert.

Marina Matt 10 years ago

This is what happens when you open far too many unhealthy fast food places. Just look at Dubai – the malls are full of them and even in nice areas like The Walk at JBR there is little but unhealthy junk food places to eat. And it makes the place very ugly too. The problem in the malls is that the mall owners won’t let you open a place to eat there unless you can prove that you have a track record of success. So it’s very very difficult for small independent places to open, but easy to launch a franchise of some vile fast food joint. I’d love to see more places like The Lime Tree Café opening in the city but the rules are skewed in favour of the big Arabic groups who own the rights for fast-food franchises in the region.

Sunny 10 years ago

There was an article that the gyms for ladies in KSA were announced illegal and shut down. So, where the women can perform sport activiites?

Edward 10 years ago

in this region people first reaction unfortunately is to blame others. You see that in traffic, parent hood, education; any issue is always somebody else fault. Here, some blame the availability of fast-food for obesity. Well, the same people blame probably every one else in their life if something is not right, but never look at them self. What you eat and what you choose is in your own control, nobody else... Do not blame the fastfood companies or any other restaurant. Some people also do not mind to be obese; if that is the case, its their choice and we should respect that, but its wrong to blame aviability of food.

Neil 10 years ago

The reason there are so many fast food joints is because there is huge demand for their services. Subjective but just an observation I also have noticed that in Mall of the Emirates food court the busiest counters are the burger ones and the quietest are the more locally based ones.

Lee 10 years ago

"Consume less - live more". This was spray painted on a wall not far from where I grew up in Australia. I used to pass it daily on the bus to school. I now try to live by its intent. Having said that, I love a KFC burger (the spicy ones). I love a 'wama (although they are a bit hit and miss). There is more saturated fat in a shawama (with sauce) than there is in a KFC burger. There is more saturated fat in a cream based Italian meal than there is in a Big Mac meal. In fact, most meals you purchase, fast or slow, are generally quite high in fat - its usually hidden. Someone else on this blog has noted that education is the key. It is. Many people in the developed world don't know that the content of their food is actually killing them and they have had many years of educational opportunity. I agree, don't blame the food outlets - educate the public.

sonnydubai 10 years ago

Unfortunately this is purely cultural. In the Arab world sport/exercise is hardly recognised by the local population which is such a shame as these activities can bring together people whilst staying healthy. Schools need to be targeted now to reverse this trend.

Euro18 10 years ago

@ Neil: You are absolutely right! The demand for fastfood is huge here in the ME and that's why you can find a fastfoodstore on almost every corner and next to every petrol station. Also the only place in every mall where you always find people is at the food court. Especially in the evening. But who can blame them for eating easy, fast and cheap food if you can get a whole meal including drinks for as less as 20 AED per person. You don't have to do groceries, don't have to cook for hours in the kitchen, don't have to do dishes and best of all: your children don't complain about the food because they love the french fries and the toy that comes with the meal. Especially when you are working hard the whole day going to the food court for example is an easy choice above doing groceries and cooking. How to tackle this problem? Well, that's the hard part. Increasing the price or a tax will not help much. And I think the only way to change the obesity rate is to say no to fast food (especially multiple times per week!) and educate the people how to bring their body in balance with exercising and sports. But unfortunately the climate here is not optimised for sporting and exercising outside and people use their car for everything.

AK 10 years ago

I live here and have done research on health in the kingdom and the figure that all doctors agree to is 40:40. 40% of the population is 40% overweight. Either way it's bad but using false figures doesn't help your cause when people find out.