By Ghadeer Ghloum
KUWAIT: Some countries are experiencing a particularly high prevalence of diabetes, Kuwait being one of them. Kuwait is ranked second worldwide when it comes to diabetes, as the state has a 24.9 percent prevalence rate. This high rate is a cause of concern for public health officials in Kuwait, as diabetes can lead to various health complications like heart disease, blindness and kidney damage. Dr Thamer Al-Essa, medical specialist in glandular and diabetic diseases, told Kuwait Times that Kuwait has reached this stage due to several cultural and dietary factors, besides genetics.
“There is a genetic aspect to developing diabetes, but there is also a daily lifestyle factor that contributes to becoming diabetic, such as consuming large meals and tables filled with large portions of food. As for dietary factors, it is the consumption of starchy and sugary foods that contribute significantly to weight gain and high blood sugar,” Dr Essa said.
Kuwaiti cuisine is a blend of spices, meat, rice and wheat. These foods are known to be high-calorie and high-fat meals. Additionally, traditional Kuwaiti meals are served in large portions, which can lead to overeating. “Especially feasts that are usually held in the evening, in addition to lack of movement and exercise, especially among middle-aged and older people — these are all cultural factors that contribute to the development of diabetes,” he said.
Limited opportunities for exercise in Kuwait play a role in the state’s high diabetes rate. Kuwait’s hot climate and sandy terrain make outdoor physical activity difficult, and indoor gyms and fitness centers can be expensive. Additionally, the rise of modern conveniences such as cars and elevators further discourage individuals from engaging in physical activity. However, Dr Essa suggested a few solutions. “Possible steps must be taken including weight loss, replacing sugars with natural sweeteners, reducing dependence on starches for food and replacing them with rich food sources such as legumes, and adding physical exercise to one’s daily life,” he advised.
Moreover, Dr Essa said urbanization and technology has had a significant impact on Kuwaiti lifestyle and habits. The heavy reliance on technology, social media and online entertainment often leads to inactive lifestyles and neglect of physical activity, in addition to welfare and provided services. “Around 20 to 25 percent of the population of Kuwait is affected by diabetes, which means one in four people. Urbanization and abandonment of crafts and manual work resulted in reducing the necessity of physical movement and increased obesity rates due to reliance on machines more than personal efforts,” he pointed out.
Lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet is a formula for developing diabetes. However, this chronic disease is preventable through lifestyle changes and better diet choices, which are necessary to reduce the impact of diabetes on individuals and ultimately improve the quality of life across the population.