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Obesity in the Middle East and North Africa

The meaning of «obesity in the middle east and north africa»

Obesity in the Middle East and North Africa is a notable health issue. Out of the 15 fattest nations in the world as of 2014 (according to the World Health Organization [WHO]), 5 were located in the Middle East and North Africa region.[1]

In 2005, the WHO measured that 1.6 billion people were overweight and 400 million were obese. It estimated that by the year 2015, 2.3 billion people will be overweight and 700 million will be obese.[2] The Middle East, including the Arabian Peninsula, Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey, and Iran, and North Africa, are no exception to the worldwide increase in obesity. Subsequently, some call this trend the New World Syndrome.[3] The lifestyle changes associated with the discovery of oil and the subsequent increase in wealth is one contributing factor.

Urbanization has occurred rapidly and has been accompanied by new technologies that promote sedentary lifestyles.[4] Due to accessibility of private cars, television, and household appliances, the population as a whole is engaging in less physical activity. The rise in caloric and fat intake in a region where exercise is not a defining part of the culture has added to the overall increased percentages of overweight and obese populations.[5] In addition, women are more likely to be overweight or obese due to cultural norms and perceptions of appropriate female behavior and occupations inside and outside of the home.[6]

The medical condition of being overweight or obesity is defined as "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health".[2] It is measured through the Body Mass Index (BMI), defined as a person's weight, in kilograms, divided by the square of the person's height, in meters. If an individual has a BMI of 25–29, he or she is overweight. Having a BMI of 30 or more means an individual is obese. The greater the BMI, the greater the risk of chronic diseases as a result of obesity. These diseases include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cancer, and premature death.[2]

The MONICA Project, sponsored by the World Health Organization, found that 30% of the population in the Arab World is overweight or obese, including adolescents and adults.[7] This percentage is smaller for North African countries than oil-producing countries, but is still a prevalent trend.[4] The spread of the Western lifestyle, defined as "the intake of attractive energy dense food with undesirable composition, increased consumption of animal fats and sugars and reduced consumption of dietary fiber, along with a lack of sufficient physical activity", is one of the leading causes.[7] Specifically in the Arabian Peninsula, "physical activity of the population has significantly diminished with the availability of housemaids, private cars, television, and sophisticated household appliances. In addition, the types of food and fat intake have changed...".[5]

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