Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Obesity and the nature of the eating habits and dietary habits in the Arab countries

Obesity in the Arab world:

obesity is a significant concern in many Arab countries. Several factors contribute to this, including dietary habits and eating patterns. Here's a breakdown:

Prevalence of Obesity in Arab Countries:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 30% of the adult population in the Arab world is overweight or obese. This percentage varies across countries, with higher rates in wealthier oil-producing nations like Kuwait (42.8%) and Qatar (33.1%).
  • Even among children and adolescents, the situation is concerning, with obesity rates ranging from 5% to 18% in boys and 3% to 18% in girls.

Dietary Habits Contributing to Obesity:

- Shifting towards Westernized diets:

A significant contributor is the shift from traditional diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to Westernized patterns high in processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. This is often linked to factors like:
  • Increased availability and marketing of processed foods: Fast food chains and supermarkets with processed goods are becoming more common, influencing food choices.
  • Busy lifestyles and convenience: Busy schedules lead to reliance on convenient, processed options over traditional home-cooked meals.
  • Urbanization: As more people move to cities, access to fresh produce and traditional foods may decrease.

- Large portion sizes:

Another factor is the tendency towards larger portion sizes, exceeding calorie requirements. This can be influenced by cultural norms of hospitality and abundance.

- Frequent dining out:

Eating out more often, especially at restaurants with less healthy options, can contribute to increased calorie intake.

Other Factors:

  • Limited physical activity: Reduced physical activity due to factors like increased screen time, urbanization, and limited access to safe exercise spaces can further exacerbate the problem.
  • Cultural factors: Cultural norms around food and hospitality can play a role, with pressure to consume large portions or finish everything on one's plate.
It's important to note that the obesity issue is complex and varies across the Arab region. Socioeconomic factors, cultural norms, and individual choices all play a role.

Addressing the Issue:

Several initiatives are underway to address this challenge:
  • Promoting healthy eating habits: Public health campaigns and educational programs encourage consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting processed foods and sugary drinks.
  • Encouraging physical activity: Initiatives promote physical activity through creating safe spaces for exercise, supporting active transportation, and raising awareness about the benefits of movement.
  • Policy changes: Some countries are implementing policies like taxes on sugary drinks or restrictions on marketing unhealthy foods to children.

By addressing these factors through a multi-pronged approach, Arab countries can work towards healthier diets, more active lifestyles, and a decrease in obesity rates.