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Sun 24 Aug 2014 03:16 PM

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UAE teens among the highest for obesity rates

UAE teenagers are facing serious health threats with an increase in the number of eating disorders reported

UAE teens among the highest for obesity rates

UAE teenagers are facing serious health threats with an increase in the number of eating disorders reported.

Potentially irreversible medical complications of eating disorders include stunted growth, delay or arrest of puberty, osteoporosis and risk of fractures. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate amongst all mental health disorders, most often due to suicide or medical complications.

According to Arab Health Recruitment and Training, it is no secret that the UAE has one of the highest obesity rates in adolescents. In addition to the risk of chronic lifestyle conditions; adolescents face yet another health-related threat with binge eating disorders.

Dr Veena Luthra, Consultant Psychiatrist of the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi, stated: “The most common eating disorders in adolescent patients in our clinic are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. The onset of Anorexia is bimodal, peaking in the early (age 14) and late (age 18) teen years. Bulimia usually starts in the late teens.

“Moreover, binge eating disorder is frequently associated with obesity and is also considered an eating disorder. Patients suffering from this disorder often do not seek mental health treatment. This is a major concern because rising obesity is a public health issue in UAE.”

Research has found that eating disorders are more common in females over males with a ratio of 10:1 for anorexia and bulimia in adults. However, in children and adolescents, the ratio is lower at 3:1 while the difference between the genders is even less in binge eating disorders.

“The root causes for the development of these conditions in UAE adolescents are familial, biological, social and cultural factors,” highlighted Dr Luthra.

“The risk of eating disorders is 10 times higher in first-degree relatives, due to genetic factors. Puberty often triggers the onset of eating disorders as well; frequently the teen starts off with a diet to lose a few kilograms and it spirals into an eating disorder.

“Traumatic events can also trigger eating disorders. These might include bereavement, being bullied or abused, a divorce in the family or concerns about sexuality,” she added.

Some of the warning signs parents should look for in their adolescent children are; unexplained weight loss, a change in eating patterns, excessive exercise even when injured, frequent vomiting after ingesting food, consuming diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics.

“Eating disorders can be life-threatening so parents must seek treatment for their teen. Do not dismiss it as a passing phase and delay treatment. Early intervention has the best results so treatment should be started immediately before the disease becomes chronic and more resistant to treatment. Adolescents have less nutritional reserves than adults and their medical risk can rapidly escalate,” warned Dr Luthra.

Dr Veena Luthra will hold a seminar on the psychological and physical dangers of eating disorders in UAE adolescents at the Paediatrics Conference during the Arab Health Recruitment & Training Fair.

The event will host 18 CME accredited conferences in the healthcare fields of Bioengineering, Cardiology, Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Imaging and Radiology, Nursing, Paediatrics, Pharmacology, Laboratory Management, Diabetes, Gastroenterology, Sports Medicine, Dermatology, HR and Recruitment. It will take place from 18-20 October 2014 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

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Buddy 5 years ago

Its ok to educate people, but I feel that obesity becomes a very negative buzz word in society that is creating more damage than the overweight itself. It's easy to become victim of all negative communication and think obese people are on the lower ranks. This may cause psychological damage to affected children, and adults too; it's definitely not an contributor to self confidence. I come from generations of obese people, and as a matter of fact, I am not all all unhappy being obese myself.

Lets ensure that obese people are labeled as "normal" people; and we should not take for granted the media or doctors that make a living out of creating taboo's. Some would want to loose weight for health reasons, for others they are not, and they are happy with it. Why creating this type of intolerance via the media??

Mark Renton 5 years ago

This is not intolerance, just medical facts. Obesity is strongly linked to diabetes, cancer and other health issues.

You may decide you don't want to do anything about your own obesity, but you would be doing your fellow citizens a disservice by trying to pretend that it is not a serious health risk. Sorry if that affects your own self-confidence but others need to know the risks.

nice 5 years ago

There are loads of fatties in Dubai. They don't offend me personally. Unlike other countries where taxes support the health system, here, each person has to support their own medical bills so why do I care if someone wants to load up on burgers and shakes.

MT3 5 years ago

....is the wrong answer. Even with private medical insurance as the level of claims rises, the premiums are readjusted and the actuarial calculations revised leading to significant rises in the cost of the medical insurance that many companies provide their employees. More significantly, overweight (and unfit) people tend to have more paid sick days than their fitter colleagues, again tending to inflate a companies' cost base. In most cases companies will seek to pass on at least some of the increase in their costs to consumers. There are a number of studies that quantify this effect and the impact can be material. Obviously obesity is not the only driver - alcohol and smoking are also major culprits. So I'm afraid you are likely to be paying for other people's bad habits and lack of self-control. And sorry but the contribution to the economy of a thriving fast food sector does not outweight this impact!

MT3 5 years ago

If you have analysis that proves otherwise I'd be interested because my company certainly prices in increases in the costs of production/delivery etc... which in the case of medical care has been significant; 20-30% increases on what is typically at least 5% of the total remuneration package over the last 2-3 years and the majority of our clients are ex-pats. We use a global pricing model that is used in over 80 countries so we're not deviating from the norm either. Obviously we also have to remain competitive so we can't always pass on these costs but more often than not we see our competitors doing it too. Longer term we look for productivity gains but if you get hit with a material increase in your medicare out of the blue and you still have to meet this year's budget.... In any case locals are entitled to free healthcare and if as so many claim ex-pats are secretly taxed in the UAE, presumably some of that "tax" funds the healthcare system.

Proud UAEer 5 years ago

Everyone in UAE knows that biggest is best.

UAE may not light up the international league tables in standard of living, education standards, press freedom or much else. But when it comes to eating and being sedentary, we have found our calling.

As a larger person, I think we should be rightly proud of the UAE's eaters for their heavyweight contribution. Keep eating and ensure the UAE stays top of the pile.