Obesity rate jumps 34% among Saudi women in 3 years

November 25, 2017

Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Obesity rate among Saudi women has jumped from 33.5 percent in 2014 to 67.5 percent in 2017, registering an increase of 34 percent in just three years.

The latest statistics indicated that the number of women suffering from obesity reached 67.5 percent while the number of men affected by the lifestyle disease was 38.2 percent.

Dr. Azzam Al-Qadi, consultant obesity surgeon at Habeeb Hospital and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada, said obesity rate among women is expected to cross 77.6 percent by 2022 when the rate among men will reach 41.4 percent.

Al-Qadi›s estimates are based on solid factors that have not been addressed properly so far. He blamed an unhealthy lifestyle, lack of physical exercise and hereditary factors for the growing number of obesity cases among Saudi men and women.

“Obesity has a direct and indirect role in raising the mortality rate. About 20,000 people die in Saudi Arabia as a result of obesity every year. According to the latest statistics this disease has affected about 36 percent of the Kingdom›s population,” Al-Qadi told Al-Watan Arabic daily.

Saudi Arabia is among the top 10 countries with the largest number of obesity cases in the world. A survey conducted by the Health Ministry in 2014 showed that 33.5 percent of women were affected.

“The figure rose to 77.6 percent within three years,” he said.

Obesity cases are high among the elderly as 48 percent of people in the age group of 55 to 64 have been affected, the expert said. “The most perplexing issue is that the number of obese children is expected to cross 3.5 million in the Kingdom,” he said citing a study conducted by the Executive Bureau of GCC Health Ministers.

He said obesity could cause chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart ailments, which increase the number of deaths. These diseases put additional burden on the Kingdom›s health budget as a result of the cost of treatment.

Al-Qadi said the Kingdom has been spending huge amounts of money on treatment of diseases caused by obesity such as heart ailments, arthritis, cancerous tumors, hepatitis and infertility among women.

Speaking about treatment, Al-Qadi said: “There are two methods; the first is surgery to remove excess fat from the body. The second is to change the lifestyle, stick to a special diet regime, engage in physical exercise and take certain medicines.”

He said the Kingdom›s Vision 2030 targets to bring down the obesity rate in the country. “But there are obstacles that must be removed by the health authorities who should promote a healthy food culture,” Al-Qadi said. Unhealthy food is the reason for 90 percent of obesity cases.

He urged the authorities to address these issues through awareness programs to reduce obesity rates among both men and women. “Endocrine dysfunction and hereditary factors contribute to obesity especially among women,” he pointed out.

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