x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Two out of five Dubai children found to be overweight

We need an organised programme to fight obesity," says Dr Fatma al Attar, head of the community programme section at the health authority.

ABU DHABI // More than one in three children in Dubai are overweight, according to a study released yesterday by Dubai Health Authority. "We need an organised programme to fight obesity," said Dr Fatma al Attar, head of the community programme section at the health authority. "We can't do it with just a one week campaign or a day of activities." A three-year survey of 1,133 pupils in grades 10, 11 and 12 found 26.7 per cent overweight and 12.2 per cent obese. The study was the first of its kind conducted by the government agency.

"We have to focus on behaviour and environment," Dr al Attar said. "Most of the cases of childhood obesity that go to clinics have no genetic problems or hormonal imbalances. It was the environmental factors that caused their obesity." Males are more likely to be overweight: 30.1 per cent of the boys compared with 23.1 per cent of the girls. "Our explanation for this is that boys are going through hormonal changes and their muscles are growing," the doctor said. "Another explanation is that females are more worried about their looks, so maybe they are taking more care than boys about their weight."

Non-nationals were more likely to be overweight than Emiratis, which Dr al Attar attributed partly to expatriates enjoying a higher socio-economic status than they would in their home countries. "With the non-nationals, usually both parents are working so the children rely more on ready-made food," she added. "National ladies usually don't work, and employ housemaids who are preparing their food."

As the children got older, the likelihood of obesity decreased, probably because of education and vanity. In grade 10 the level of hormones shot up, but by grade 12 they levelled off, Dr al Attar said. @Email:amcmeans@thenational.ae