Dubai: The number of diabetic patients in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) is expected to increase by a whopping 110 per cent to 82 million over the next 26 years, revealed a new report.

This tremendous increase—roughly equivalent to the current total population of Turkey—will significantly impact mortality, productivity (GDP) and increase healthcare expenditure, according to the new report by Colliers international titled “Diabesity—Impact on the MENA Region”.

Already eight Middle Eastern countries (Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan and Lebanon) have the highest global ratio of obesity among adults at 27 per cent with 40 per cent of the total population affected. There were 39 million diabetics in Mena in 2017.

The report, which is part of the Arab Health Market Series, also highlighted that diabetes’ economic burden in the region will jump by 67 per cent to $35.5 billion (Dh130 billion) by 2045, from $21.3 billion.

Published ahead of the Arab Health 2019 conference, the latest research from Colliers International provides in-depth analysis of the key factors impacting the “Diabesity” epidemic—which refers to a twin occurrence of the epidemics of Type 2 diabetes and obesity—with a focus on the Mena region and its future outlook.

Commenting on the result of the study, Ross Williams, Exhibition Director of Arab Health, said: “With health professionals and researchers considering “Diabesity” as potentially the greatest epidemic in human history, the advancement of communication technology, telehealth and application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now playing a critical role in management of chronic illnesses such as diabesity and obesity. The economic and societal impact of the epidemic is a catalyst for the entire healthcare industry to come together to offer collective solutions to this global problem.”

Altered eating patterns due to increased income and urbanisation in the Gulf region is a primary factor contributing to the diabesity epidemic, according to the report.

Only 38 per cent of the GCC population eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

Having a sedentary lifestyle is another major contributor.

More than half of the men, at 60 per cent, and 73 per cent of the women in the region are physically inactive.

The final contributors are barriers to a healthy diet and lesser emphasis on nutritional education, as well as increased consumption of sugar and sugar substitutes (GCC countries represent a $8.4 billion soft drink market).

It’s not all bad news though since various governments are already tackling the growing problem of diabesity. The UAE, For example, has developed a clear roadmap for combating and controlling diabesity such as the Abu Dhabi Children’s Obesity Task Force to increase physical activity among children, taxation on sugary and energy drinks and tobacco products, to name a few.

Though the challenges are still being faced in some areas such as lifestyle modification, physical inactivity and diet, government measures have led to a drop in the prevalence of diabetes in the UAE from 19.3 per cent in 2013 to 17.3 per cent in 2017.


Arab Health, the largest exhibition for healthcare and trade professionals in the Mena region, will take place in Dubai January 28 to 31.

It will host the 5th Diabetes Conference to discuss the latest developments in its prevention, treatment and management and diabesity.