by Robin Freeman March 29, 2017
Do any of these names sound familiar to you: Cheesecake Factory, TGIF, Applebee’s, Hardee’s, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme Donuts, Domino’s Pizza, and Dairy Queen? If you are an American most if not all of these restaurants are in your city. But wait! These restaurants are in my neighborhood, and I live in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The food establishments mentioned above are a minuscule sample of Americana that caters to the Saudi population.
Behind these new tastes, another element follows closely behind; obesity, and according to WHO (World Health Organization), Saudi’s are now among the top competitors for the title of most obese (2012). As a result, diabetes, heart disease, and complications from obesity now plague the region.
An Italian friend, who landed in Saudi Arabia over 30 years ago, remembers the simple selection of food available in the market: local meats, rice, vegetables, spices, olive oil, honey, teas, coffee, and sugar. Health issues associated with diet were foreign to the population. The Mediterranean-style of eating now swapped for both processed and fast-food choices. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are the national drinks. Also, regular activity and exercise, most especially for women, is not part of the culture (2016).
Most unfortunate is the lack of education related to health and nutrition in the Middle-East as no campaigns exist to teach the population about the dangers of poor eating habits. They have become the perfect bait for corporations. Individuals who live in the region deserve education about the foods now offered alongside the streets and lined up on grocery shelves.
Individuals who live in the region deserve education about the foods now offered alongside the streets and lined up on grocery shelves. Let us hope the mega food corporations will be called to account to help fund healthy eating campaigns for the communities that help fatten their wallets.
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. (2016). Saudi health interview survey. Healthdata.org. Retrieved from http://www.healthdata.org/news-release/saudi-health-interview-survey-finds-high-rates-chronic-diseases-kingdom-saudi-arabia
WHO Saudi Arabia (2012). Burden of disease. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/gho/countries/sau.pdf?ua=1