Time to put down the kanafeh and go on a diet! New study shows obesity in Lebanon among the highest globally

Published May 30th, 2014 - 04:00 GMT

After ranking highly on a string of top 10 lists, Lebanon can now add being one of the fattest countries for young boys to its list of achievements.

The percentage of boys under twenty who are obese in Lebanon range between 13 to 19.1 percent, placing the Mediterranean nation at fifth in the world, tied with the Caribbean nation The Bahamas. The findings are according to a recently released global analysis on country-by-country obesity funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“This is largely due to low physical activity,” said Stephanie Nehme, a dietitian at the So7i W Sari3 clinic in Ashrafieh.

Nehme said that the changing of lifestyle and exchanging homemade food for fastfood was among several factors that led to an increase to obesity in youngsters.

"They really depend on their parents or their maid at home and they are lazy."

Young adults should drink and smoke less, Nehme recommended. "There also needs to be a healthy environment at home."

Lebanon also ranked second in the region with obese boys under the age of twenty, only beaten by the oil-rich nation of Qatar and is tied for 8th in the world, with Slovenia, for the most “overweight and obese” boys under the age of twenty.

Global obesity has been described as a global pandemic, according to the analysis, with 30 percent of the world, or 2 billion people, now overweight. The levels of obesity are alarming considering the health effects caused by obesity.

"It's pretty grim," Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study, told AP. More than 1,700 studies covering 188 countries were monitored by Murray and his colleagues from 1980 to 2013. "When we realized that not a single country has had a significant decline in obesity, that tells you how hard a challenge this is."

Murray said scientists have found a correlation between obesity and diabetes and that weight-linked cancers, like pancreatic cancer, are also on the rise.

The analysis’ introduction reads: “In 2010, overweight and obesity were estimated to cause 3.4 million deaths, 4% of years of life lost, and 4% of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) worldwide.”

Murray said increase in income was strongly linked to obesity and that as the standard of living around the world improves, the numbers on weight-scales have gotten larger.

An average of 71.1 percent of Lebanese men over 20 are “overweight or obese” while 26.3 are just obese, according to the analysis.

Lebanese girls, for their part look to be doing slightly better. According to the study, 29.8 percent of Lebanese girls under 20 are “overweight or obese” while 12.5 are just obese and 62.3 percent of Lebanese women over 20 are “overweight or obese” with just 29.3 percent being obese.

According to dietician Nehme, Lebanon has a lot of "temptations" and needs to focus more on physical education. She was also adamant that school canteens should change their menus and offer "not diet but healthier choices."

"When in school kids should put a priority on sports not only studies," Nehme said. "Nutrition classes should also be incorporated into the [school] curriculum."

By Justin Salhani

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