According to a Gulf News report published in May, 2014, researchers have discovered that more than 2 billion people worldwide are now overweight or obese. The highest rates were in the Middle East and North Africa, where nearly 60 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women are heavier. The study was led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Researchers reviewed more than 1,700 studies covering 188 countries from 1980 to 2013.

According to the World Health Organisation, the UAE was also categorised as the world’s fifth most obese nation. An alarming 40 per cent of the women and 25 per cent of the men are overweight. The report notes that an average adult in the UAE consumes over 3,000 calories per day, almost 20 per cent above the average. The recommended daily calorie consumption for adult men should be 2,500 calories while woman shoud consume 2,000 calories per day.

The International Diabetes Federation estimates that 20 per cent of the adult population in the UAE is diabetic. That means there are nearly two million people in the country suffering from this disease.

According to a Gulf News report published in August, 2014, a survey was conducted by Dubai Municipality in 2013, which showed that at least 40 per cent of schoolchildren are overweight. Additionally, nearly three-quarters of 5,000 students surveyed in the UAE do not exercise or exercise for less than an hour a day.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is now making it mandatory for all schools providing meals to pupils to follow healthy nutritional guidelines from this academic year. Failure to abide by the rules will invite penalties. Childhood obesity has been recognised as a major problem in the UAE and the DHA, by taking action to ensure that children receive well-balanced meals at school to bring down obesity levels and inculcate healthy eating habits.

Experts also recommend that children exercise for at least one hour a day.