UAE: Pakistani couple Ali and Simra Shaikh have adjusted to the UAE lifestyle: watching TV, limited exercise, fastfood once a week — and a much greater risk of developing diabetes.
A two-year-long survey, titled “The UAE National Diabetes and Lifestyle Survey”, is to kick off on December 10, but insights from Sharjah University researchers, who have already begun a pilot phase, show expatriates who have been living in the country for four or more years have a much greater chance of developing diabetes.
Experts said on Tuesday that in four years’ time, an expatriate would have settled down into the UAE lifestyle to be able to represent a section of society that can be tested for lifestyle disorders such as diabetes.
Ali and Simra, who acknowledge the debilitating nature of diabetes, admit their lifestyle here is “lazier” than what it would be at home in Pakistan.
“We spend many hours watching TV and, yes, we do not take out time to exercise daily, but I never realised that this could put at risk of diabetes,” says Simra, who is in her mid-30s.
Husband Ali says that the family eats fastfood at least once a week.
“This is what everybody does here but I did not know that this all would develop into disease later.”
Dr Nabil Sulaiman is heading the research team. “In about four years, people have started adapting to the lifestyle here which we know is sedentary, hence the huge number of diabetic population,” he said.
Expatriates will be some of the 7,000 residents here to take part on December 10’s first-ever nationwide survey, part of a two-year-long survey.
Besides detailed blood profiling, participants will be asked a range of questions related to their lifestyle.
“We want to know how much time is spent in front of the TV, what their jobs are and how stressed they are since these factors lead to disease,” said Dr Nabil.
Results of the survey were expected to alter the current projected ‘mall study’ figures on Type 2 Diabetes that claim the country has the second highest incidence of the disease in the world after the small Pacific island nation of Nauru, he said.
“This hopefully will be the most accurate study to date since we are basing it on international markers.”
Based on mall studies, present figures show 19-25 per cent of the UAE nationals or 1 in 4 of all residents are diabetic. Authorities also say that 35 per cent of the UAE population is at risk of becoming diabetic in the next 10 years.
Estimates provided by the Ministry of Health say that 1,080 people died in 2008 due to diabetes-related problems, while the direct annual spending on the disease was Dh100-200 million.
Future policies regarding treatment and management of the disease will be based on the results of the survey, said Dr Mahmoud Fikri, Undersecretary for Health Policies at the Ministry and National Diabetes Committee chairman.
© Khaleej TimesNov 2012