The profound economic growth in the Arabian Gulf states over the past few decades has had a great impact on the lifestyle of the Qatari population. There has been a rapid appearance of fast food restaurants and other hallmarks of western society. These influences have been accompanied by a higher energy intake and decreased levels of physical activity. The potential impact on the younger population is particularly alarming. Throughout the recent past, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2DM) among children and adolescents has increased significantly due to the high prevalence of obesity. Obese children can have a higher risk of premature mortality due to consequent cardiometabolic morbidity. According to WHO, obesity-induced medical conditions have now led to excess mortality surpassing that associated with tobacco. However, data on the body weight status of Qatari children are lacking for the past ten years. This study estimates the magnitude of the increase in BMI among Qatari adolescents (aged 12-18 years), by comparing our data (obtained during 2009) with published results from 2003 [Bener et al, JHPN 2005;23(3):250-8]. The present data originate from a pilot study on lung function conducted in Qatar in 2009. The subjects were chosen by random sampling of Qatari students attending government schools (grade 7-12). For our study, only students aged 12-18 years are included, resulting in a total number of 705 participants (400 girls and 305 boys). Although a large variety of data was collected, our study focused only on height, weight and BMI. The results reveal a substantial increase in BMI during this 7 year period for both Qatari boys and girls. For boys aged 12 years, mean BMI increased by 2 Kg m-2 which became a 5 Kg m-2 increase at the age of 17 years, and possibly as much as 8 Kg m-2 by 18 years. By contrast, the increase in mean BMI for girls remained more or less constant between the age of 12 years and 17 years, fluctuating between 2 Kg m-2 and 4 Kg m-2, before reaching almost 7 Kg m-2 at the age of 18 years. Using International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) criteria, the overall prevalence of Qatari children who were overweight or obese was 26.5% (boys) and 23.1% (girls) in 2003 [Bener, Food Nutr Bull 2006;27(1):39-45], and 47.2% (boys) and 40.8% (girls) in 2009. For boys, this represents a 21% increase, with a corresponding increase of 18% for girls. These results show that during this 7-year period, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among both boys and girls has increased by more than 75%. Based on these figures, the prevalence of childhood obesity is alarmingly high and points to an acute need for intervention, and a need for local research into the most appropriate and effective actions. In addition, there is also a need to systematically collect regular and ongoing observational data regarding body weight status of adolescent Qataris in order to continue to monitor this situation.


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