In 2013, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region registered the highest rate of obesity worldwide, with 58% of men and 65% of women age 20 and older classified as either overweight or obese.1 More than two-thirds of the countries in MENA posted overweight and obesity prevalence rates of more than 50% for both men and women.
The countries in the region which have gained the most weight in the past three decades, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. Unfortunately, the Middle East has one of the highest rates of child and adolescent obesity in the world, particularly among girls. In absolute numbers, there are now 79 million obese people and 180 million overweight people living in the MENA region.
Obesity is taking a particular toll on Arab women, with 45.3% of Qatari and 44% of Saudi Arabian women being obese.2 Over the last three decades there has been a big shift in diet in the Middle East, with Western food, some of which is high in calories, fat and sugar, increasing in popularity, particularly as more women are entering the workforce and fast food is replacing traditional home-cooked food.
The opportunities to exercise in public are extremely limited for women living in many Middle Eastern countries due to cultural factors such as accepted dress codes and modest conduct. The fuller figure is seen as a desirable trait in women in the Middle East, being considered a thing of beauty and higher social standing.
International fast-food chains, easy access to cars, and the popularity of cheap, processed food in supermarkets have all contributed to Arab and Gulf countries’ dramatic waistline expansion.
This high prevalence of obesity has paralleled the rise of diabetes and hypertension. The MENA region is reported to have the highest prevalence of diabetes in adults in the world, at 10.9%.
Low-sugar, low-calorie snack foods such as toosum snack bars can help reduce obesity and diabetes.
Of course, a well-balanced diet and adequate exercise are necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
With Toosum’s launch at the Gulfood show in Dubai last week, consumers in the MENA region will soon have the opportunity to begin purchasing healthier snack options.
1 “Global Incidence of Obesity Skyrockets, Highest Rate in the Middle East,” nuviun digital health, 8 June, 2014
2 “Obesity in the Middle East: A Serious public health concern and initiatives to improve diet and physical activity,” BMJ Blogs, 18 June, 2014
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We know you’re careful about what you eat at meal times—lots of veggies, healthy protein, complex carbs. But snack time can be tricky because many “healthy” snack bars out there are loaded with sugar and calories or packed with preservatives and other ingredients concocted in a lab, not a kitchen.
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