Dubai: A Dubai doctor has reiterated warnings by health professionals that a lifestyle turnaround is needed to curb rising obesity and associated diseases in the UAE.

Dr Girish Juneja, head of surgery and director of Dubai’s Weight Loss Metabolic Centre, International Modern Hospital, said the UAE is the world’s fifth most obese nation.

“The lifestyle is the main reason — sedentary life, fast-food culture. Physical activity was an integral part of the Emirati lifestyle, now it’s disappearing,” Dr Juneja said.

He added that obesity “came on very fast in the UAE”, shooting up in the past two decades. “If obesity is very high, it causes diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, knee pain and cardiovascular disease.”

Dr Juneja said obesity affects almost all organs directly or indirectly, including the heart and liver.

Exercise can mitigate the problem but some obese people are trapped in a “vicious cycle” where they shy away from activity and socialising, leading to more inactivity, he added.

“They feel isolated. A lot of people become depressed, it adds to the problem. You won’t see them playing football with friends [for example]. But they need to be active. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Dr Juneja doubts rates will drop unless there is more public awareness on obesity and individual resolve to prevent it from setting in.

Once a patient becomes “morbidly obese” with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 and higher, “we’ve to add a surgical component”.

There are a number of surgical procedures available, such as gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy, depending on the case.

“Unless you see a doctor or research online [for example], you won’t be well informed about obesity. If you are very obese, you should consult a doctor and then you can make up your mind about having surgery,” Dr Juneja said.

Average costs for sleeve gastrectomy can range between Dh35,000-Dh40,000; and Dh45,000-Dh50,000 for gastric bypass surgery, he added.