The obesity epidemic in Qatar may have just overtaken the United States, which was long the world leader. According to new data release by the Supreme Council of Health, about 70% of people in Qatar are overweight and some 41% are obese.
“These diseases, as science has shown, kill prematurely, they compromise quality of life and we also know they are influenced by behavior,” said Ravinder Mamtani, associate dean for global and public health at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q).
Rapid urbanization in Qatar, and many other states in the Arab Peninsula, following the discover of oil has contributed to a sedentary lifestyle. Coupled with a lack of exercise culture and diets high in fats, salts and sugar, obesity has rapidly increased in the Middle East.
The new data was presented in a symposium organized by WCMC-Q and co-sponsored by the Supreme Council of Health. The rapid increase in obesity has led to an increase in several non-communicable diseases in the small Gulf country, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the rate of diabetes in Qatar has climbed to 20.2% of the population.
“Often we think that we need to do a lot to prevent these illnesses. That is not the case. Often simply making some marginal changes will help,” said Mamtani. The incidence of these diseases can be significantly reduced by simple lifestyle changes, such as increased regular exercise and opting for a healthy diet, he adds.
The symposium also saw the launch of the new Journal of Local and Global Health Perspectives from QScience.com. The journal is open access and peer-reviewed, providing a global perspective on health issues and public health strategies.