Obesity in the Middle East

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Obesity in the Middle East


By Chris Jarratt of Bariquins (February 2017)

To continue with a look at the frequency of obesity around the world (I’ve already covered Europe and the American states), I thought that this month that I would concentrate on the Middle Eastern countries which incorporates the Gulf states too. In general, the term ‘Middle East’ covers the area from Turkey, Cyprus and Egypt in the west of the region, to Iran and Oman on the eastern side. North to south, it stretches from Turkey and Iran, down to Yemen. Sometimes, other countries are included in the group but for our look at the region, I will be sticking to the countries within the broad outline given above.



Like Europe, I will do a ‘top’ 5, starting (of course) in reverse order and including some general facts drawn from Wikipedia such as population and size of country. Specific data on obesity will be from a more trustworthy source that cannot be manipulated by the general public.

So, let’s start with…


Number #5


In at number 5, according to the World Health Organization (as are all these figures) is the United Arab Emirates or UAE for short. The WHO states that the UAE has an overall obesity rate of just under 34%. This is made up from the 30% male obese population there plus the UAE’s 43% female residents that are obese. The true population there isn’t known but estimates put it somewhere between 5.8 million and 9.6 million inhabitants, of which only 11% are true Emirati.


Number #4


Next in the hit parade, we have Jordan. The obese male/female mix is around 27% and 42% respectively. This gives an average of just over 34% when taking into consideration the number of men and women in the country where the population is around 9.5 million, 98% of whom are of Arabic descent.


Number #3


Moving on to number 3 now, we have that ancient of nations, the land of the pharaohs, Egypt. Their countryfolk have an average obesity rate of just under 35%. This is made up of 22.5% obese males and more than twice as many obese females at around 46.3%. This is from an estimated 92.5 million inhabitants for the state.

Number #2


Just below the top spot, we have the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Their population comprises of 29.5% obese men and 43.5% obese women, giving an average obesity rate of just over 35% for the whole country. It is the largest country in the region that we’re looking at but has only about a third of Egypt’s population, somewhere around 33 million people.


Number #1


And here we are at the number one position for the Middle East league of obesity, Kuwait. This country has 37.2% males and 52.4% females that are obese, giving the combined average obesity rate of just a little below 43% for its 4.3 million residents.


If we compare Kuwait’s obesity rate with that of America, it will help put the seriousness of their problem into perspective. Many believe the USA to be the most obese country in the world. This is probably due to it coming top of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation & Development stats on obesity. However, there are only 35 members of the OECD, mostly European with the US, Canada, Mexico, Korea and Japan keeping them company. In the same set of data that we used for the ratios of obesity in the Middle East, America is recorded as having 33% of its population recorded as obese. That’s a full ten percent less than the rate in Kuwait.

Worryingly, as with most countries around the world, the rate of obesity in Kuwait (as well as all 4 of the other Middle Eastern countries mentioned above) is set to rise in the near future.




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