With obesity rates rising at an alarming rate in Kuwait, especially among 18 to 29-year-olds, early intervention to tackle the Kubwait’s obesity problem is becoming increasingly urgent, according to the country’s Ministry of Health. The chief of the Health Enhancement Administration at the Ministry, Dr Abeer Al-Bahouh, recently revealed to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that Kuwait holds the unenviable top spot for obesity in the Arab World. The country reports that 77 percent of its population is overweight and has an obesity rate exceeding 40 percent.
In a world grappling with obesity, current projections estimate that by 2035, around four billion people will be overweight. This figure is significantly higher than the 2.6 billion reported in 2020. Dr Al-Bahouh warns that obesity prevalence among children and teenagers is likely to be particularly high, and could double by 2035, reaching 20 percent among boys and 18 percent among girls globally.
The health risks associated with obesity are well-documented, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and it is currently the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. Obesity’s detrimental impact extends to children’s health as well, leading to issues such as breathing difficulties, fatigue, snoring, joint pain, and delayed puberty.
The causes of obesity are multifactorial, with poor dietary habits, a sedentary lifestyle, genetic factors, gut flora, and Cushing’s syndrome among the contributing factors. Local and World Health Organization (WHO) statistics indicate that one in five adults in the Gulf are severely obese. The adult obesity rate in Kuwait is predicted to reach 52 percent by 2035.
Dr Al-Bahouh advocates for obesity interventions to start in childhood, with education on healthy eating habits, encouraging physical activity, providing psychiatric therapy sessions, and treating health issues that may lead to obesity. While stomach and intestine surgeries are potential weight loss solutions, they are only suitable for teenagers, not children, and are supplementary to a healthy diet and exercise regime.
Dr Al-Bahouh emphasises the pivotal role of parents in monitoring their children’s diet, swapping fast foods and fizzy drinks for healthier alternatives like fruits, vegetables, wholegrain products, water, natural juices, and low-fat milk. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, spending time together as a family, and reducing time spent on screen-based activities like video games and television are also crucial.
She further highlights the need for the Ministry of Health to develop and implement strategies to combat obesity, including making physical education compulsory in schools. Over the next five years, in collaboration with other bodies, the administration plans to launch campaigns to limit obesity.
A report by Forbes magazine in 2007 listed Kuwait as the eighth fattest country in the world, with 74.2% of its population having an unhealthy weight. This health issue has been compounded by a high prevalence of diabetes. By 2035, it’s feared that 52 percent of adults in Kuwait will be obese, significantly raising the risk of related health issues.
While efforts to raise awareness and implement healthier habits are underway, obesity and its related health implications continue to be a grave concern for Kuwait. The country’s health challenges are further exacerbated by the increase in diabetes rates, poor dietary habits, a lack of physical activity, and high obesity rates.
Global trends in malnutrition, including a rapid rise in overweight and obesity rates, persist, despite increasing numbers facing hunger and undernourishment. Current predictions suggest that the global medical costs related to obesity could exceed US$1 trillion by 2030.
The correlation between obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD), such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, points to an urgent need for intervention. Dr Al-Bahouh asserts that over 70 percent of deaths in Kuwait are linked to these conditions, emphasizing the dire necessity for effective action to curb obesity.