Consider this: In the UAE, figures suggest that more than a third of children are either overweight or obese, while around 1 in 5 adults are also overweight. In fact, the entire GCC region is in the danger of being categorised as a region of obese people, with 42.4 per cent of Saudi men classified as overweight, and 45.3 per cent of women in Qatar categorized as obese.
A leading expert has told delegates at the ongoing Arab Health Conference that developing new drugs to regulate appetite in humans can help tackle the global obesity crisis.
While addressing delegates at the Middle East Diabetes Conference at Arab Health 2014, Karim Meeran, Chairman of Imperial College London Diabetes Centre’s (ICLDC) Medical Board and Professor of Endocrinology, Imperial College London, explained that humans have evolved to become very successful in increasing food supply and thus reducing the need to exercise.
“The genes that we have always had, which protected us against starvation, are now causing uncontrolled obesity,” he said, adding that humans now have the opportunity to respond more to the brain’s drive to eat without having to hunt for food.
Professor Meeran also described how recent advances in understanding signals sent by the brain relating to hunger, have been demonstrated through bariatric surgery, which is performed to achieve weight loss. “While advising people to exercise remains hugely important, this often does not work as the urge to eat is very powerful. So we are increasingly developing new drugs that can control hunger.
“In time we hope that these drugs can help reduce the need for bariatric surgery, which like any surgery is traumatic, and even more importantly help tackle the global obesity crisis.” A recent report on global obesity estimated that there are more than 900 million overweight or obese adults in the developing world, with rates growing faster than in the developed world.
Professor Meeran also noted that the conference will have an important focus on the region.
“We know that the Middle East is particularly affected by diabetes and its related complications and recent figures from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) confirm this.”
“So it’s vital that subjects covered in this important meeting, like dealing with diabetes during Ramadan, are specifically geared towards the region.”
Recently released figures from the IDF estimate that 18.98 per cent of the UAE population lives with diabetes, placing the country 15th worldwide.
The figures also suggest diabetes is a regional problem with three GCC nations featuring in the top ten countries for diabetes prevalence.