"Recent years have shown an increase in the number of overweight or obese adolescents, possibly because of a sedentary lifestyle and increased fat content in people's diets, particularly in affluent families."- Vandana Luthra, VLCC founder and mentor Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/Gulf News

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?