Nearly two thirds of Saudis are suffering from obesity because of bad eating habits and lack of exercise, a medical conference in the Gulf Kingdom has been told.
Nearly 37 per cent of Saudi women are also facing health problems related to overweight, said a study at the conference in the eastern Saudi town of Al Khobar.
“Obesity is fast turning out to be a major cause of concern for the Kingdom with seven out of 10 Saudis suffering from obesity,” it said.
It showed that around SR500 million per year (Dh495 million) was spent by people suffering from obesity in the Kingdom on treatment, especially diabetes which is prevalent among a large section of Saudis, including women.
“The disease had spread at an alarming rate of 30 percent in the past 10 years,” the study said at the conference on obesity in the largest Arab economy.
Quoted by the Saudi Arab News daily, Dr Ayed Al-Qahtani, consultant obesity surgeon, said the Ministry of Health is developing a national strategy to combat obesity.
“There are also plans to set up a national center for obesity surgery at the King Fahd Medical City, with five similar centers across the Kingdom in the pipeline.”
In a recent study, Dr Qahtani estimated that obesity kills an average 20,000 people every year in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter.
Although the Gulf Kingdom spends in excess of SR19 billion (Dh18.6 billion) a year on the treatment of diseases related to fatness, more than three million children in the country are suffering from obesity, he said.
In a separate study, another doctor said Saudis are the third laziest people in the world after those of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea and Swaziland in Africa because of the high obesity rate in the Kingdom.
“In terms of laziness, the people of Saudi Arabia are ranked third in the world after the people of Malta and Swaziland,” said Dr Waleed Al Bakr, a well-known endocrinology specialist in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has a population of around 30 million, including nearly 20 million Saudis.