UAE | Health

75 per cent of UAE population is overweight

In 2010, the percentage of diabetes occurrence stands at 18.7 but that is expected to rise to 21.4 per cent by 2030, says an expert at Abu Dhabi Diabetes Congress

  • By Nathalie Farah, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 March 14, 2010
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/Gulf News
  • In the Middle East and North Africa [Mena] region, 26.6 million people suffer from diabetes in 2010, according to the International Diabetes Foundation

Abu Dhabi: Approximately 75 per cent of people in the UAE are obese or overweight, and Emirati adults who are overweight or obese make up 34 per cent and 36 per cent of the total population respectively, it was revealed at the first Abu Dhabi Diabetes Congress Saturday.

"There have been many changes in the UAE, such as an improved health system, an aging population and increased awareness. Unfortunately, at the same time, there has been a great reduction in daily activity and an increase in obesity. Also, there is a lack of health education and prevention programmes in the country," said Dr Khalid Al Jaberi, consultant and chief endocrinologist at Mafraq Hospital.

The UAE's population is approximately 3.4 million and of those, around 425,000 people from the ages of 20 to 79 in the UAE are currently diagnosed as having diabetes. That figure is expected to rise to approximately 501,000 in 2030, Dr Al Jaberi said.

In 2010, the percentage of diabetes occurrence stands at 18.7 but that is expected to rise to 21.4 per cent by 2030.

"In the Middle East and North Africa [Mena] region, 26.6 million people suffer from diabetes in 2010, according to the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF.) That figure is expected to jump to 51.7 million in 2030, which is a 93.9 per cent increase. However, the total expenditure in the Mena region is only $5.6 billion [Dh20.56 billion], or 1.5 per cent of the total global spending on the disease," he explained. "The UAE spends approximately $1,067 yearly per person with diabetes, and there are 1,080 deaths that can be attributed to diabetes," he added.


Unusual thirst

Type 1 Diabetes

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue and irritability

Type 2 Diabetes

  • Skin, gum, or bladder infections
  • Frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts/bruises slow to heal
  • Tingling/numbness in hands/feet


  • Men: Diabetes can cause far-reaching health implications like heart disease, nerve damage and kidney damage. Amputation, blindness and even death can all result from not properly diagnosing or treating diabetes.
  • Women: The burden of diabetes on women is unique because the disease can affect both mothers and their unborn children. Diabetes can cause difficulties during pregnancy such as a miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects. Women with diabetes are also more likely to have a heart attack, and at a younger age, than women without diabetes. For women who do not currently have diabetes, pregnancy brings the risk of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes develops in 2 - 5 percent of all pregnancies but disappears when a pregnancy is over. Women who have had gestational diabetes or have given birth to a baby weighting more than 9 pounds are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.


Have your say

Do you think there is enough awareness about diabetes and obesity? What stops people from changing their lifestyle despite various awareness campaigns?

Comments (7)

  1. Added 19:16 March 14, 2010

    This trend is very alarming and deserves immediate attention by Health Minsitry. Government ought to promote healthy activities through public awareness programs and also by sponsoring sports and other healthy activities. Junk foods has now become a part of routine life which needs to be avoided to a minimum and through people needs to be education of the hazards of junk food.

    Fawad, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 19:14 March 14, 2010

    I believe there is a reason for this. In the UAE there are very less or no opportunities for outing or sporting activities. Abu Dhabi lacks public playgrounds like we have in India where people throng to play every evening, be it cricket or football. Even those very few well-maintained playgrounds needs ticket or entry fee to be used. Ultimately, the general public are left with no choice but to stay at home! Naturally this is one of the main cause for overweight and loads of deceases.

    Roshan, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 19:07 March 14, 2010

    The problem that we face in the UAE is one that we face globally as well. Our lifestyles have changed so significantly in these past few decades that the solution cannot lie on each individual's shoulder but this change needs to be promoted across the board. In our pursuit of living a better life, we have significantly changed our value system. To effectively combat obesity in the world we live in today, Governments, Media, Industry all need to step up and take responsibility and motivate healthy lifestyle choices. There has to be a pardigm shift from just looking at weight as something that effects our body image to one that significantly effects our health - this needs to be something we do for a lifetime not just as a diet.

    Ussma Ghani, Dietitian, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 19:02 March 14, 2010

    Lack of outdoor activities is usually the main reason for obesity. Also fast food outlets are spread out all over the UAE and healthy food options are hardly available. Whenever I go out for a meal I am stuck without options as most foods on the menu are loaded with calories. People are generally aware about the risks caused by diabetes and obesity but tend to be careless. Lifestyle changes are absolutely essential but difficult to implement. People are used to a certain routine and find it difficult to change the pattern. More and more easy options are available in the market and people are adopting the latest fads. Home cooked food is being slowly replaced by restaurant meals which are tastier, appealing to the eye and also an easy alternative. We need to go back to the routine followed by people a few decades ago. Health has taken a backseat and progress is influencing our decisions and lifestyle. Probably it is time for all of us to sit back and think of slowing down a bit just to safeguard out health.

    Naina Nair, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 17:22 March 14, 2010

    i am a sugar patient for last 13 years, what i noticed that, we should not upset to the fact, in my experience, the Diabitics is least dangerous to man, if he properly maintains it. i am taking insuline regularly along with other medicines. i am stricklty monitoring the level of sugar, with the Grace of God, for last 6 month my sugar level control unbelivable, i am using 25 minute treadmill daily at morning. and now i dont feel that i am sugar patient, i take food normally, my advise please dont take food full of your stomac, keep always quality food less quantity. dont depend much on doctors, you must be first doctor for you. read all available litreature about diabets and keep experience with your life and have a healthy life

    PT Abdul Rahman , Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 12:52 March 14, 2010

    People are aware now-a-days. 90% of the women which I meet eother at work or at home seem to be on diet but with no results. I think there are many factors one being the hot weather conditions all year round, limiting to indoor activities. Than busy life with busy work schedule ending up with no time for yourself. And the big factor is differentiating between proper training gyms and money minting gyms. Most of the program currently in UAE are too expensive for the average person to afford. Everyone join them but due to the heavy billing amounts people are unable to contine more than 3-6 months, so whatever weight they had lost in 3 month, comes back again. Therefore, less job stress and econimical weight loss program are essential.

    Asma , Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 10:37 March 14, 2010

    The people should avoid unhealthy food. To drink cola must be occasional only. Avoid to eat outside (fastfood) everyday. Cooking by own is the best healthy food and the best thing is self-dicipline and frequently do exercise.

    Teody, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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