- 17 per cent of the population suffering from diabetes
PUBLISHED: 12:52 EST, 14 April 2012 | UPDATED: 12:59 EST, 14 April 2012
Qatar, the richest nation on earth, is also the fattest with half of all adults obese and 17 per cent of the population suffering from diabetes.
By comparison America, which is often assumed to be the fattest, looks positively slim with a third of adults obese and eight per cent diabetic.
Out of a population of 1.7million, just 250,000 are native Qataris, who, in the space of just two generations have switched from a tribal existence to living in air conditioned villas being waited on by armies of servants.
Recipe for disaster: Wealthy Qataris do very little exercise, are waited on by armies of servants and have developed a love of fast food
Qataris are developing diabetes a decade younger than average, which, in turn, is pushing up rates of illnesses like hypertension, partial paralysis, heart disease, and blindness.
The tiny Arab state, with its vast supplies of oil and natural gas, became the richest nation in the world last year as measured by per capita gross domestic product.
Mr Big: Qatar’s leader Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani
In recent years Qataris have developed a love of fast food with branches of KFC and McDonald’s springing up in the many air conditioned malls.
Hassan Tiaz, 19, told Atlantic magazine: It’s because in Qatar we just sit, smoke and eat junk food.
‘There’s not too much work. Everything is automatic and most of us just sit in air-conditioned offices and cars. Everything is done for us.’
The nation also suffers from a high rate of birth defects and genetic disorders – which experts put down to the custom of inter-marriage between close family members and cousins.
Sharoud Al-Jundi Matthis, the program manager at the Qatar Diabetes Association, said: ‘It’s a very, very serious problem facing the future of Qatar.
‘They’re concentrating the gene pool, and at the same time, they’re facing rapid affluence.
Adel Al-Sharshani, 39, who was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago, said: ‘Everybody in Qatar knows about diabetes, but the problem is, it’s talking only. No one is taking care of it.
‘I ignored all the advice until it was too late, and that is what other people are doing too. It’s dangerous.
‘I am afraid of losing my eyes, my foot. I am afraid of losing my life.’
Hanging out: Qataris love to relax with friends over a snack and a smoke
The Qatari government is desperately trying to tackle the problem by launching campaigns to encourage healthy eating and exercise.
Maher Safi, marketing director at the Qatar Olympic Committee, explained: ‘Our main focus is encouraging people to be active, getting them to lead healthy lifestyles — that’s our vision.’
‘In the past few years, the committee has launched public programs administering free body-mass indexes and sugar level tests, disseminated material about healthy eating, and introduced initiatives to schools to help children learn about new sports, like handball, tennis, and bicycling.’