Head of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Medicine at the Medical College of the Arabian Gulf University, Dr. Faisal Al-Nasser said that the incidence of diabetes in the Arab Gulf “is one of the highest in the world”, and attributed this to the lifestyle and dietary habits in the Gulf region.
Dr. Al-Nasser gave a keynote paper at the International Conference of Family Physicians, which was held in Dubai, titled “Diabetes, the plague of our era”. During the conference, he explained that “the Arab Gulf is one of the top 10 countries in the world which are witnessing a steady increase in the proportion of patients with diabetes.”
He pointed out that the prevalence of diabetes in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is ranging currently from 15 percent to 20 percent but is definitely expected to increase in the coming years.
He also pointed out “the beginning of the emergence of a strange phenomenon, a proliferation of type II diabetes of children in the Arab Gulf states,” while the illness used to be confined to the first type.
Diabetes is classified into three main types which are similar in the general characteristics but differ in their causes : Type I diabetes, Type II diabetes and gestational diabetes.
It is known that the second type of diabetes is spreading due to dietary habits and lifestyle, while the first type of diabetes is caused by genetic factors.
Dr. Al-Nasser predicted the increasing of the prevalence of diabetes in the Middle East up to twofold by the year 2030, bringing the total to 60 million ill patients.
About the recommendations that should limit the spread of this disease, Dr. Al-Nasser launched an initiative to establish a coalition of Euro-Arabic family doctors. He believes that this cooperation “will strengthen the role of family medicine in improving the health of the individuals and the society,” pointing out that the coalition will be organizing regular conferences to highlight the health and social problems encountered by the public communities in the Arab Gulf states in particular.
The British newspaper “Financial Times” highlighted on November 14, 2014 the high prevalence of diabetes among the population throughout the Middle East and North Africa and reported expectations of an increase of the burden on health care systems in the region unless governments take further action to change the life pattern there.
According to the newspaper, in a report posted on its website, one out of every 10 adults suffer from diabetes, half of whom are actually undiagnosed. The report invokes the quick increase of type II diabetes cases in the region, and without a true lifestyle change, a quarter of the population of the Middle East would be affected with diabetes by 2035, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
The newspaper report explained that overeating and junk food, in addition to the lack of physical exercise, undermines the attempts to control the spread of diabetes, which is associated with obesity, and with the increased incidence of obesity, particularly among children, the increase of diabetes is currently one of the most pressing health issues in the region.
The British newspaper quoted Mr. Adel, Regional President of the International Diabetes Federation, who said: “We have the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world, due to our habits in eating and lack of exercise.”
The federation expects to see the prevalence of diabetes double in the region during the next two decades, with the number of cases rising from 37 million (10% of the population) to 68 million (about 25% of the population forecast in 2035).
The newspaper pointed out that the disease has already caused 363 thousand deaths in 2014, half of whom are under the age of 60. Throughout the region, Egypt is one of the states with the highest population density and also the largest number of cases of diabetes, about 7.6 million, but the implications of diabetes are relatively higher in the wealthy states of the Gulf region.
International Diabetes Federation says that up to 70% of cases of Type II diabetes can be prevented or delayed through the adoption of healthy lifestyles, calling on governments to implement more regulations to encourage citizens to eat different foods and get used to exercising.