The country with the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world is the island republic of Nauru in the South Pacific. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), more than 30 per cent of its 14,000 population have the disease.
Genetic prevalence is one potential cause, but other factors such as obesity and lack of exercise can also lead to its development. So it is no surprise to learn that more than 90 per cent of the Nauru population is overweight and, even more shockingly, 60.5 per cent of men and 55.7 per cent or women are obese.
Diabetes leads to severe health complications such as heart disease, hypertension, renal failure and blindness. So again, it is no surprise to learn that the prevalence of diabetes has led to a reduction in life expectancy for Nauru's inhabitants. Men can expect to die at 58 and women at 65.
These statistics should make worrying reading for Gulf governments because the next five countries with high rates of diabetes are all in the region. The UAE, SaudiArabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman are hot on the heels of Nauru, with the prevalence of type 2 diabetes ranging from 20 per cent in the UAE to 13 per cent in Oman (see graph, page 26).
What is even more worrying for these countries is that the rise has been so sudden. "Thirty years ago, infectious diseases were the main causes of morbidity," says Yousef Abdulrazzaq, professor of paediatrics and neonatology at UAE University. "Lifestyle has changed a lot. We are more affluent and so more sedentary. The result is high prevalances of obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. It is causing lots of problems--kidney failure, blindness, problems with peripheral nerves. The government has recognised that it is a major problem."
This "major problem" is overshadowing the region's considerable progress in combating …