x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Obesity is now more acceptable

A changing perception of what is considered a socially acceptable weight is contributing to the UAE's obesity epidemic, a leading health official says.

Abu Dhabi // A changing perception of what is considered a socially acceptable weight is contributing to the UAE's obesity epidemic, a leading health official said. Dr Cother Hajat, head of public health at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), said the public perception of "what is normal" had changed in the past 20 years to accept heavier weights. "If people in your environment - friends, family and colleagues - put on weight, you are more likely to put on weight," she said. "We know that is of huge importance."

HAAD has made obesity a high priority, but Dr Hajat said it was hard to implement strategies that worked. "All indicators are going in the opposite direction," she said. "There have been no examples of major success in adults and numerous examples of the problem getting worse." A survey conducted by HAAD in 2005 found that 37 per cent of nationals were obese and 74 per cent overweight. Almost 25 per cent of non-nationals were obese and 66 per cent were overweight. It indicated that people thought obesity was an inevitable part of the ageing process.

"This is a medical problem and needs medical intervention," Ms Hajat said. "Our lifestyles have changed with our perception about what weight is appropriate. People consume more calories and exercise less than they did a generation ago." amcmeans@thenational.ae