Speaking at the Primary Health Congress in Abu Dhabi, Professor Karim Meeran, Professor of Endocrinology at the Imperial College London, said that just one percent reduction in weight reduces risk of premature death.
He stressed that extra body weight encourages the onset of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart attack and thus increases the risk of premature death.
"Weight control and the management of obesity levels are crucial lifestyle environmental factors that can help create healthier nations. Indeed, a small drop in weight can lead to a 10 per cent drop in risk of death,” he said.
Professor Meeran cited thrifty genes as a possible culprit to fat storage, adding that such metabolic behaviour can lead to type 2 diabetes.
"The thrifty genes hypothesis suggests that genes drive human behaviours that in turn encourage the storage of fats. This behaviour then leads to obesity and subsequently type 2 diabetes.
He said that although such behaviour can be genetic, it can be modified by change in environment.
"Behaviour such as laziness, reluctance to exercise and excess eating is driven by genes, which are impossible to identify due to their sheer numbers. However environmental changes through self-management, or even by-laws and regulations, can lead to significant switch from harmful behaviour.”
Professor Meeran observed that obesity in children is a very new phenomenon that is fast-gaining pace.
"Excess calorie availability is the factor that drives obesity in children. This again leads back to managing lifestyle, this time in family groups.”
He suggested that it is time for governments to step in with policies that encourage healthy behaviours.
“Internationally, heavy taxation on cigarettes has led to significant reduction in smoking in the past few years. Similarly environment and policies that encourage people to eat healthier, exercise more and lead active lifestyle are now required to divert a diabetes epidemic,” he said.
Professor Meeran and three fellow specialists from Imperial College London have been speaking at the Metabolic Syndrome & Associated Diseases conference in capital, in conjunction with the Primary Healthcare Exhibition & Congress at ADNEC.
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