(MENAFN - Arab News) THE 'OBESITY EPIDEMIC' has become a new global buzzword in the twenty-first century, as preposterous as it is to think of when we consider the number of people in the world who go hungry every day.
The World Health Organization puts the rate of death in the Kingdom under 60 due to non-communicable diseases (such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes) at 44% for men and 35% for women. Such staggering figures are indicative of the health crisis taking over the region and account for the various forums being launched, such as the huge conference held in Riyadh on NCDs last October which saw heads of state and prominent figures from international organizations take part.
And lest we be tempted to dismiss the idea that carrying a few extra pounds could be such a big issue, medical professionals also make it clear that obesity is a precisely defined (and sometimes extreme) condition, not merely a matter of a few extra pounds. And the disease it causes is real and profound.
The root causes of obesity are actually no mystery. Moreover, it is, in the vast majority of cases a preventable condition, which means that the various serious ailments associated with it are all fundamentally preventable and treatable as well.
In fact, there are some high-tech medical solutions, including bariatric surgery and pharmaceuticals that reduce the absorption of fat by the body.
Both may be appropriate protocol, but neither is without significant risk, and these are probably not the best approaches to the obesity problem for the majority of people.
What is safe, beneficial, and in the long run probably most effective is a simple set of positive lifestyle changes. These involve one's choice of food and eating habits, and, of course, exercise. There may be a small percentage of the population who require more drastic measures to deal with extreme obesity, but I think any doctor would agree that a serious commitment to those simple changes in lifestyle would go a long way benefiting health and preventing obesity-related disease for most of us.
We might question why these measures are necessary right now.
The answer lies in the fact that we have already, without fully fathoming it, been subject to a detrimental lifestyle change. This is true for people worldwide but especially true for the Gulf and the United States.
The prevalence of convenience food and fast food and the movement away from our traditional diet, coupled with the fact that we live in a convenience-style world where everything we need is at our fingertips or a car ride away, culminate to form the late twentieth century epidemic.
The main obstacle seems to be that positive lifestyle changes such as basic levels of movement require a generic effort in a region of highways and SUVs.
Years ago, I read a disturbing study in which hospital patients indicated that they would rather undergo major surgery than take simple daily measures to change the way they lived. This seems amazing, but I'm convinced it is all too true. Thus, it remains to be seen how we will handle this new health crisis. It may well be that the over-reliance on high-tech medical solutions is the third angle of a trifecta of negative social changes, along with the prevalence of unhealthy convenience food and motorized transportation. It is these factors combined that make it that much less likely to want to act for ourselves.
So now, with 1.6 billion obese people worldwide, a growing epidemic in Saudi Arabia and an accessible solution at hand, it remains to be seen whether we will be able to galvanize ourselves into action to take measures to solve the problem.