(MENAFN - Arab News) A senior dietitian from Qatar urged children yesterday to maintain a balanced diet to prevent obesity.
Clinical dietitian at the Sports Medicine Program in Qatar Shaima Al-Khaldi was addressing delegates yesterday at the Pediatric Nutrition Symposium at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh.
The symposium was organized by the Saudi Dietetic Association (SDA) in cooperation with Almarai, the largest integrated dairy foods company in the world.
Established in Riyadh in 1976, Almarai extends its network throughout the Arabian Peninsula, leading and influencing the agricultural, dairy processing and food distribution industries.
"When consuming a balanced diet, it is also necessary for the children to engage themselves in regular physical exercise to stay healthy and active," Al-Khaldi said,
Talking on nutrition at school today, the lecturer pointed out that a proper diet and physical activity should go hand in hand with each other to maintain a healthy body.
The dietitian also said that excess of any food is bad for health. "Even fruit juice has a high sugar content and excessive intake would increase glucose levels in the body, eventually leading to obesity," she added.
Al-Khaldi, who was one of the three guest lecturers at the symposium, said the government of Qatar had recently observed a "National Sports Day" to create awareness among the people on the importance of healthy food and physical culture.
"This was a public holiday and everyone was encouraged to know about the value of sports and proper diet in one's life."
She pointed out studies in Qatar have shown that school students spend excessive time on TV or Internet use, encouraging obesity. For that reason, she added that school-based nutrition intervention would facilitate health awareness and reduce mortality and morbidity from adolescent and adult obesity.
"National programs for prevention and treatment of obesity need to be established. Educational strategies, anthropometric measurements and dietary regulation habits could have a major impact on health awareness and reduce risks of overweight and obesity," Al-Khaldi concluded.
SDA Chairman Mohammed Al-Saif said Saudi Arabia is witnessing rapid developments in the health sector in many aspects, including developing qualified personnel to work in various health disciplines, as well as quality assurance through the work of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties in dealing with the licensing and regulation of practitioners in the health sector. The commission also gives authorization to create different health associations for health practitioners, including dietitians.
The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties' board of trustees approved the establishment of the Saudi Dietetic Association at its first meeting in 2009. The association's directors was elected a few months later to achieve the aims and vision of the association to be the main reference in clinical nutrition locally, regionally and in the Arab world.
"Our services are primarily for dietitians and workers in the health sector and society in general. This is achieved through the adoption and dissemination of policies and procedures of clinical nutrition and raising the competence of workers through organizing conferences and educational seminars. Another aspect of the association's work aims to raise the health awareness of the community, Al-Saif said.
Discussing the effect of dietary calcium on vitamin D levels and obesity in the Kingdom, Sara Al-Musharuf, lecturer in clinical nutrition at the King Saud University, said the drastic changes in lifestyles and nutrition that brought about rapid economic changes in the Kingdom have seriously threatened people's health with emergence of a number of chronic and non-communicable diseases.
"Obesity is a major contributing factor in the emergence of these diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and hypertension, which have increased rapidly worldwide including Saudi Arabia," she noted.
While several risk factors have been identified, Al-Musharuf pointed out that one micro-nutrient stands out not only because of its equally alarming global prevalence, but also because of its multiple physiologic roles that influence normal biologic functioning. She also said that Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several chronic diseases among adults and almost all cardio-metabolic diseases risk factors are associated with Vitamin D deficiencies in both adults and children.