>Kuwait’s rise in the obesity epidemic

>The World Health Organization estimates that just over 74 percent of Kuwaitis are overweight, according an article on CNN. The WHO also contributes this number to the rise in heart disease and diabetes in the country. Also, around 14 percent of the population suffers from diabetes and that figure is on the rise, the article stated.

An excerpt from the article: 

“[Being] overweight and obesity have been gradually increasing for the past 15 years,” Nawal Al Hamad, Head of Nutrition at Kuwait’s Ministry of Health, told CNN.

The underlying causes are complex, but an abundance of food and sedentary lifestyles are major factors, according to Hamad. 

“In Kuwait incomes are good, food is available and not very expensive, and most importantly people don’t move a lot,” she said.

“Our homes are equipped with the usual advanced technology devices, in addition to the fact that we have helpers at home; even people who are unemployed usually have at least one or two helpers at home,” she added.

Kuwait’s per-capita wealth is one of the highest in the world, while over half the labor force is made up of non-Kuwaitis, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Sami Al Bader is head nutritionist at Gethealthykuwait.com (GHK), a private initiative aimed at helping Kuwaitis to lose weight.

“The figures of overweight people we’ve reached in the last five years are very alarming,” he told CNN.

What’s more, GHK has discovered high obesity rates in children. 

Just under half of female students are overweight and type-two diabetes — once known as adult-onset diabetes — is now affecting children as young as eight. Bader said the importance of food at Kuwaiti social functions is contributing to the country’s weight problem.

“The new Kuwaiti psyche is very heavily related to restaurants and eating out,” he told CNN. “At family gatherings food is the number one thing. Every family occasion in Kuwait is like Thanksgiving. 

“The more food you present gives you a bit more status, so people are always presenting more food at all the different occasions,” Bader said.

He added that over the past 20 years more Western products have arrived in the country — including Western-style fast food

“In residential areas there are fast food outlets around your homes,” agrees Hamad. “It is easy to access, whereas when I was young I couldn’t find it in a residential area,” she said.

Home-delivered fast food is popular. Some McDonald’s branches offer office-delivery and Burger King and KFC deliver direct to customers’ front doors.

“The sheer number of delivery trucks competing in traffic jams in Kuwait tells me that the populace of Kuwait is very much enjoying the home delivery revolution,” Sumayyah Meehan, an American journalist who has lived in Kuwait for the past 14 years, told CNN. 

This isn’t a surprising phenomenon. The World Heart Federation has good, brief breakdown on the rise of obesity across the globe. MSNBC in 2006 had an article that predicted the obesity rate among children was expected to skyrocket by 2010. Kuwait’s rise points to a larger problem we are facing in the world: more people are leading sedentary lifestyles; more people are relying on processed foods high in animal fats and calories; more people are not eating enough plant-based foods; and more people are not cooking their own foods.

Reading these stories and watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has been an eye opening experience. I didn’t realize how different things have become between the time when I was a child and now. I remember my mother cooking a majority of our meals. We rarely ate out. We probably ordered pizza once a month. We had vegetables and greens with our meals. As a child, I remember feeling like we were poor because we didn’t eat out as much as my friends and their families. Looking back, I understand why we didn’t eat out as much. Looking back, I’m more than grateful that I got to experience the luxury of having home-cooked meals instead of stuffing my face with processed, high fat laden foods.

Children also don’t go outside as much, I’ve noticed (which some say can be attributed to the heightened awareness of child predators in neighborhoods). When I was growing up, we would do anything to go outside. We would stay outside for hours upon hours. We would play sports, ride our bikes, walk the block, etc. We kept moving. I ride around neighborhoods now and there are maybe one or two kids outside, mostly sitting in their front yards. There are no organized sports games, no hide-and-seek, no tag, bike riding, nothing.

I sometimes feel sorry for kids and parents who have been seduced by a lifestyle that is literally shaving years off their lives. With the news that this generation of children could be the first to die before their parents, it’s imperative that parents and children make changes in their lives for the good of the entire family.

It’s also imperative that our many institutions, such as our governments, schools, commercial industries, take a stance against the rising tide of overweight and obese parents and children. It’s time we all break our chains from the fast, processed foods industry and take back control of what we put into our bodies.