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Sunday, 7 March 2021

Egyptians are getting rounder and its having a socio-economic impact

Deaths from obesity-caused conditions now represent 19.08% of total deaths in Egypt at over 114k last year, according to a study carried out by Novo Nordisk Egypt and the Health Ministry on the economic burden and cost of obesity in Egypt that will be published this year, the company said in a press release (pdf). The study focuses on major conditions resulting from obesity and how evident they are in the country, with some 7 mn Egyptian adult patients suffering from diabetes due to obesity, 13 mn suffer from sleep apnea, 8.5 mn suffer from fatty liver, and almost 6 mn suffer from hypertension.

Obesity-related health problems are causing Egyptians to spend around EGP 50 bn annually, the Novo Nordisk study found. The economic burden from obesity on countries comes from the increase in health care expenditure, as well as foregone economic growth as a result of lost work days, lower productivity at work, mortality and permanent disability.

2020 saw a stark increase in obesity cases among Egyptians, and while the press release didn’t go into the reasons why, the phenomenon has been explored in this study published in the National Library for Medicine. The study argues that the weight gain last year was caused by lockdowns which resulted from an increase in stress-eating, more snacking on junk food, less exercise, as well as an increase in anxiety which caused bad sleeping habits.

Out of almost 50 mn Egyptian adults, 39.8% suffer from obesity, Novo Nordisk says, citing a survey conducted in 2019 by the ministry’s 100 mn Healthy Lives campaign. Compare this figure to the World Health Organization’s estimate that 13% of the world’s adult population (11% of men and 15% of women) were obese in 2016, while 39% of adults were overweight.

Egypt has a history with obesity: Back in 2015, Egypt was found to have the highest level of age-standardized adult obesity globally, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The abundance of the condition in the country was attributed to more than just overeating, but also to the quality of ingredients making up the diet of most Egyptians which can lead to dietary insufficiencies.

It’s not just us: Globally, the average adult is three times more likely to be obese today compared to 1975 and We Forum released an animated map in 2016 that changes colors as obesity rates changed throughout the past years. The map shows Egypt’s obesity rate rising over 25% in 1997 and over 30% in 2006, while countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia hit the over 30% mark earlier.

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