Over the last four decades, dramatic and rapid changes have occurred in social and economic circumstance in the Arab Gulf, fuelling considerable alterations in food consumption, dietary habits, and other lifestyle issues such as a reduction in activity levels and increasing sedentary behaviour. The diet has shifted away from a traditional high-fibre, low-fat style of eating towards a high-energy-density diet with higher levels of fat, saturated fat, and free sugars, and a lower intake of complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre, fruit and vegetables1.
These dietary & lifestyle changes have contributed to the promotion of chronic non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, which are now some of the main public health problems in the region1. Ischaemic heart disease was the top cause of death in the Arab Gulf in 2010, contributing 14.3% of all deaths2.
The World Health Organisation defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. Obesity in both adults and children has now reached an alarming level in the Arab Gulf, and incidence appears to still be rising3. Incidence of overweight and obesity across the region range from 25%-38% among adult men and 28%-83% among adult women, and between 18%-49% among school-aged children4.
Studies in the Arab Gulf indicate that food habits and changes in lifestyle are the most important factors responsible for diet-related diseases. Therefore, the choice of a healthy diet and regular physical activity are the main factors in the prevention of these diseases5.