One of the largest population studies recently published in the UAE found that the majority of the country's male adults who are under 30 years of age are obese, Gulf News reported.
Led by Professor Ashraf Hassan Humaidan Al Zaabi from Zayed Military Hospital in Abu Dhabi, the research was conducted on 33,000 Emirati men between the age of 18 and 30 and found that nearly 70 percent of them are obese.
The findings alarmed doctors, especially since they suggest obesity, diabetes, and other cardio-metabolic disorders related to having a high Body Mass Index (BMI) are now affecting people at a younger age than ever before. Around half of the subjects were overweight or obese by the age of 18, but this number skyrocketed by the time they hit the age of 29.
The men who took part in the study were also found to have a high prevalence of diabetes, with 4.7 percent of them suffering from the disease. Forty-one percent of the subjects also had impaired fasting blood glucose, which is an indicator of pre-diabetes.
What's even more alarming to medical professionals is that 62 percent of the men "presented at least one cardio-metabolic risk factor" including high BMI, "impaired fasting glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure."
The study also indicated that Emirati patients who had a high BMI were more likely to present multiple cardio-metabolic risk factors and have hypertension.
According to the National Health Survey, adult obesity in the UAE currently stands at 27.8 percent.
In his statement on the findings, Professor Al Zaabi explained that the numbers underline how cardio-metabolic risk factors are associated with disease in the region.
"At age 18, 42 percent of the men were in the normal BMI range, but this drastically decreased to only 29 percent at age 29. These shocking figures make us ask the difficult question of what happens during this critical time frame to make the majority of young UAE men overweight or obese?" he said.
The medical professional stressed that the reasons behind the rise must be closely evaluated.
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr. Mohammad Al Haddad, a consultant bariatric surgeon and head of bariatric and metabolic surgery at Health Point, said battling obesity must begin at a very early age.
"Obesity begins at the time of conception of the foetus, when mothers who are obese or have a bad lifestyle conceive. Therefore, it is important to check obesity from childhood to be able to stop this trend of early onset of adult obesity, diabetes and other cardio-metabolic co-morbidities," he explained.
The surgeon also attributed the alarming rise in UAE's obesity rates to children being sedentary and mostly consuming high-calorie processed food.
Obesity rates are rising in the Arab world and globally
Kuwait topped this list with a population obesity rate that stood at 37.9 percent. Jordan came second with 35.5 percent and Saudi Arabia came in third with 35.4 percent.
That same year, another study found that 35 percent of Egyptian adults (around 19 million) were obese - the number was considered the highest in the world.
The problem isn't only regional as obesity rates are rising all around the world. According to WHO's 2017 report, the world obesity level has tripled since 1975.