Cause of obesity and diabetes in the UAE under the spotlight: The UAE has one of the world’s highest prevalence rates of diabetes

Obesity, as we know, is a widespread public health issue, which has an economic, psychological, as well as physiological impact on those who suffer from the disease. Furthermore, obesity is a risk factor for many other health issues that can lead to life-threatening complications, including diabetes. The prevalence of obesity and diabetes might not be a new phenomenon, but it is an increasing concern across the world, and the population living in UAE is no exception to this problem, especially given the times we live in, where one needs to be at optimal health.


As a healthcare professional working in the UAE, I am no stranger to the facts and figures surrounding obesity. In 2010, the World Health Survey revealed that 37.2% of the Emiratis were obese[1] with the highest percentages of overweight respondents living in Dubai (52.6%), and the highest percentages of obesity observed in Sharjah (47.1%). And as obesity cases continue to rise, so do incidences of type 2 diabetes. In 2019, the International Diabetes Federation reported that one in six adults in the UAE has diabetes[2]. Furthermore, that same year, Zayed Military Hospital’s study led by Professor Humaidan Al Zaabi, found that 4.7% of the patients were said to be suffering from the disease and that 41% of the patients displayed signs of impaired fasting blood glucose, an indicator of pre-diabetes[3].


Talks related to weight and its health implications have been happening in the region for a number of years now. However, to identify a solution to this problem in the region, it is important to understand how we got here. Working as a nutritionist, what I have seen to be the most common and apparent problems are a lack of discipline towards good food choices,  portion control and a sedentary lifestyle. Further to this, the easy access to several food delivery services also means that there is a decline in home-cooked meals and understanding what goes into our food.


However, with the above said, sometimes it is just one problem in isolation and good diet and exercise habits are not enough. This is why even people who eat healthy and balanced food, with an active lifestyle still suffer from weight issues. For example, most of my clients at Allurion, a medical company I consult for, are active people who make healthy food choices, but yet they are still suffering from hunger, and therefore can’t control their portions, and need a break from the feeling associated with never being full. Hence this is why I often recommend a multilayered approach when dealing with weight loss issues.


An effective program is based on good healthcare and good science. In fact, Allurion’s Elipse Program is just that: it is a proven program that takes a holistic approach to losing weight. At the center of the program is a revolutionary soft balloon that creates a feeling of fullness in your stomach. Furthermore, patients benefit from six months of dietary support from a nutritionist to ensure lasting lifestyle changes alongside a body composition scale and health tracker watch linked to an app to follow progress.


My best advice for everyone, even the ones who aren’t suffering from obesity or diabetes is to begin assessing your lifestyle and food choices early on. We must realise that a way out of only the obesity epidemic is to have a holistic approach that focuses on all aspects of one’s lifestyle. Such as the Elipse Program that helps patients maintain lasting lifestyle modifications, even after the heavy lifting is done.


[1]Razzak, Hira Abdul. “The prevalence and risk factors of obesity in the United Arab Emirates.Saudi Journal of Obesity, 2017. Accessed 21 March 2021.

[2]International Diabetes Federation, 2019. Prevalence of diabetes (20–79 years). IDF Diabetes Atlas – Middle East and North Africa.

[3]Alzaabi, A., Al?Kaabi, J., Al?Maskari, F., Farhood, A. and Ahmed, L., 2019. Prevalence of diabetes and cardio?metabolic risk factors in young men in the United Arab Emirates: A cross?sectional national survey. [online] Available at: <>.

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