The Arab obesity crisis

A recent visit to the Middle East opened my eyes to a reality that’s readily observable: the Arab world is suffering from an endemic obesity problem.

Based upon further research it was clear that beyond tentative observational conclusions, there is significant data to support the above view.

The bubble chart below shows countries listed by levels of obesity for women and men (y and x-axis respectively) with the size of the population of a country shown as the bubble size. The data sourced from has been filtered to only include countries with a population greater than 1 million (to remove small islands from the list).Obesity

The data shows that whilst obesity is a challenge for much of the world, including countries which are well-known for their high obesity levels including the United States, it is the Arab countries that have the most alarming BMI levels.

The problem is even more acute for Arab women, in fact of the top 10 most obese countries by female gender, 7 out of the 10 were Arab: Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Libya.

How did the Arab world get to this position? Based upon my own cursory view of diet it was evident that the big driver is the consumption of processed food, large amounts of meat and carbohydrates which are part and parcel of the regular Arab diet. Overeating, coupled with an inactive lifestyle can only set the course of a people’s waistlines in one direction and unfortunately along with the United States, the Middle East typifies the consequence.

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