Obesity – A growing Health concern

A 2016 health survey conducted by the Dubai Health Authority stated that 36.1% of the total population was considered to be in the pre-obesity stage, i.e. they were overweight and nearing obesity unless the necessary actions were taken. And 11.9% of the total population included obese individuals [1].

Obesity is a growing health concern across the world, causing various chronic health conditions and reducing people’s life expectancy. Obesity and being overweight are terms used to describe weight that is generally unhealthy for a given age, height and gender.

As defined by the WHO, obesity is abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Excessive fat accumulation is caused by a combination of factors including, genetics, high-calorie intake, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle practices, hormonal disturbances etc. A crude population measure of obesity is the body mass index (BMI) – a person’s weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of their height (in meters). A person with a BMI of 30 or more is generally considered obese, while a person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight, though there are racial variations in the cutoff (with Asians having a lower cutoff point). Obesity is now a growing phenomenon across the globe and is directly linked to causing some of the preventable chronic diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, knee and joint problems, stroke, conditions of the heart, infertility and reproductive issues, as well as certain cancers.

So why are people in Dubai becoming obese?

Genetic and cultural factors do play a role in determining an individual’s chance of becoming obese, however, most people blame it on their sedentary lifestyles, long working hours, unhealthy food practices, lack of physical activity, and easily available fast food options. We all give these excuses, but do we realize that we are letting these factors get in the way of good health. Are these really the causative factors for obesity?

All of these factors are risks that you can control at an individual level. There may be fast foods that are easily available, however, have you thought of having a homemade salad instead of a burger? Obesity is a lifestyle disorder and can be controlled and prevented by changes made to one’s lifestyle. In Dubai, many people have jobs that require less physical activity, people drive more and walk less. Free time is spent watching TV or engrossed in mobile phones, people’s food habits have changed resulting in eating bigger portions of unhealthy food rather than healthy food.

How do you know if you are obese?

Obesity is defined as an excess proportion of body fat. It is a health condition that comes with some indications. Your body weight will help you assess whether you are obese or not. BMI or body mass index is the measure of body fat based on height and weight. If you are concerned about your weight or have been attempting to lose weight but have been unable to do so, consult a specialist who would be able to assist you.

How to lose the extra pounds?

The most common question asked regarding weight loss is ‘how to shed the extra pounds’? Firstly, realize and accept that you need to lose weight and follow the notion of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. The healthiest way to lose weight is by making simple lifestyle changes including, following a healthy diet, increasing physical activity and ensuring to stick to a healthy diet plan with the support of a specialist.

Prescription drugs are also another means to treat obesity. These drugs work by suppressing one’s appetite and increasing specific hormones that increase the feeling of fullness. These medications only work with diet and exercise. Even though the aim of prescription drugs combined with physical activity and diet is to reduce an individual’s weight over time, the success rates of these are minimal. These medications are only considered for people with a BMI of 30 or more but suffering from no obesity-related conditions. There is also a surgical option known as Bariatric surgery for those who are morbidly obese, and through which individuals can enjoy a higher quality of life.

Obesity is a condition which requires constant monitoring and effort. Changing your lifestyle until you receive the desired results and then stopping will only reverse the effect. Reducing calories and practicing healthy eating habits are very important to overcome obesity. It is considered to be the best and natural way to fight obesity and to keep it off permanently.

Always be realistic when it comes to change. No matter how impressive fad diets and crash diets may seem, there is no easy way of losing weight. Avoid any drastic diet changes as they will not help keep the weight off in the long term.

How to prevent weight gain?

The only permanent remedy to prevent excess weight gain is to stay physically active. Combining a healthy diet with sustainable physical activity are the best ways to keep your weight constant. Setting realistic goals and sticking to them is extremely important to stay motivated in your weight loss journey.

[1] https://www.dsc.gov.ae/en-us/DSC-News/Pages/Dubai-Health-Survey-Results2016.aspx


Dr. Kingini Bhadran

Specialist Endocrinologist

Aster Clinic, Qusais


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