UAE children are eating way too much junk food, according to a study of youth nutrition.
A research team, led by Dr Habiba I Ali of Al Ain University, found that Emirati teenagers and young children are munching their way through fast food and saturated fats and are lacking in calcium and Vitamins A, D and E.
Boys aged nine to 18 were bad at eating their greens – every boy surveyed in that age group is not eating enough vegetables.
The team of researchers, which also included the National Nutrition Institute in Cairo and two US universities, found that only a third of nine to 13-year-old girls were within the normal weight range - the rest were either too thin or too fat.
The researchers concluded that the UAE should have more exercise places that suit Emirati culture, especially for girls.
They said that the UAE is suffering the “double burden of malnutrition” as too many children are either underweight or overweight, and said this was typical of countries undergoing a big change in nutrition sources.
The study monitored the daily eating habits of 253 Emirati children aged six to 10, and 276 adolescents, aged 11 to 18. They sampled from each of the seven Emirates, making sure to match the sample group to emirate population size.
The study found that girls aged nine to 13 consumed an average of 206 calories a day from candy and sweets and 264 calories a day from sugary drinks.
“The results of this study indicate the need for interventions targeting six to 18-year-old children and adolescents to improve their diet,” the team said in its report.
“Our findings highlight the need for health promotion programmes targeting Emirati children, adolescents, and their families,” they added.