A mild heart attack confused Ali. But why?
When 40-year-old Omar Ali suffered a mild heart attack, he was both surprised and confused.
"I was doing the right things.eating right food, and exercising moderately," says Omar who is apparently the right weight for his height but sports an unsightly paunch.
And this is where the problem lies.
Abdominal obesity is one of the most powerful new risks for heart disease and underlying metabolic complications. A modern lifestyle with poor dietary habits along with a generous sprinkling of sugar laden drinks is causing an obesity and diabetes epidemic in the GCC region.
While most physicians have been concerned with body mass index (BMI) - which is only a ratio of weight over height - health experts now say that judging whether a person is overweight or obese does not help evaluate location of the excess fat and related health risks.
There is a clear need to shift emphasis from weight to waist circumference.
The International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk (ICCR), an academic organisation affiliated with Universit Laval in Quebec City, Canada held it's first-ever meeting in Dubai last month where scientists shared insights on abdominal obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
"Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is increasing in many countries around the globe, and especially in the GCC where residents are drinking more sweetened drinks than five years ago," said Jean-Claude Coubard, ICCR Executive Director in an email interview with Khaleej Times.
"It accounts for majority of total fructose intake in the diet," he said, adding that the situation was contributing to the increasing rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the region.
He pointed out that it was high time that the public realised the ill-effects of sweetened drinks.
"Several beverages have been suggested as alternatives including water, 100 per cent fruit juice, coffee and tea," explained Coubard.
"Unlike SSBs, water does not contain liquid calories, and for most people with access to safe drinking water, water is the optimal calorie-free beverage because it is affordable and accessible."
During the meeting, the first-ever ICCR Global SSB Sale Barometer was also presented listing the annual sales of soft drinks, juices as well as energy and sports drinks.
The Euromonitor Passport International Database identified Mexico (146.5 litres per capita), Chile (143.8), the USA (125.9) and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (120.1) as the world's thirstiest consumers of SSBs. Although substantially less than KSA, the UAE still ranked high on the chart with 71.5 LPC.
"Over the past decade, a large body of evidence shows a strong association between SSBs and obesity and related chronic diseases," said Coubard.
He said that on basis of seven cohort studies in adults with 174,252 participants, a 1-serving/day increase in SSBs was associated with an additional weight gain of 0.12 kg over one year. Adult weight gain is a gradual process occurring over decades and averaging about 1 lb/year (0.45 kg/year).
"Eliminating SSBs from the diet could be an effective way to prevent age-related weight gain," he added.
When it comes to Type 2 diabetes, on the basis of 310,819 participants and 15,043 cases, individuals in the highest category of SSB intake (usually 1 to 2 servings/day) had a 26 per cent greater risk of developing diabetes compared with those in the lowest category (none or 1 serving/month).
Dr Aml Mohamad Nada, Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist at University Hospital Sharjah said: "Sugar makes your organs fat."
"The fructose - a component of table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup - in added sugars triggers your liver to store fat and in weird places. Over time, a diet high in fructose could lead to globules of fat building up around your liver, a precursor to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, something rarely seen before 1980."
Besides, the build-up of abdominal fat, consuming a lot of sugar laden foods can lead to diabetes. "Not only foods rich in sugar can cause this but also foods rich in fat and calories such as junk food. This excess weight is associated with diabetes."
"When you carry too much fat tissue, especially around your midsection, your body's cells can become resistant to insulin."
She added: "A sugar-laden diet can raise your risk of dying of heart disease even if you aren't overweight."
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