news

Food and society

Junk food strikes rich as well as poor

The paradox of the Gulf States is revealed in data collected and analysed by the Food Sustainability Index: in these nations awash with wealth there still exists qualitative malnutrition. Junk food consumption is prevalent, diabetes is a common mortality risk and these factors place a significant strain on local health systems.

Wealth does not always go hand in hand with food sustainability: such is the case in the Gulf States which, according to the Food Sustainability Index developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in collaboration with the BCFN, occupy a low ranking in terms of food quality and suffer actual qualitative malnutrition as well as health problems linked to high consumption of junk food. The facts are reflected in the general state of health of the local population.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 19% of residents of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia suffer from type 2 diabetes, the form most closely linked to an unhealthy lifestyle. What’s more, according to a survey by the Diabetes Federation, over 40% of people who live in the area and have raised blood sugar levels are not diagnosed in a timely manner, with costly effects in terms of disease complications and subsequent financial strain on local health systems.


Bad food, sedentary lifestyles and waste

The Food Sustainability Index, which focuses on food sustainability, offers some suggestions as to the cause of this epidemic: a nutritionally poor diet (though not necessarily poor in economic terms), food which increasingly resembles the worst that the West has to offer (including pre-packaged and junk food), and a widespread sedentary lifestyle have all led to an increase in the average weight of the population (70% of residents in the region are overweight) and to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease which are associated with qualitative malnutrition.


The problem, once limited to the male population, has also spread to women in recent years, with over 20% of expectant women suffering from gestational diabetes. The leading cause of this high incidence amongst women is a sedentary lifestyle, compounded by local traditions which makes it very difficult for women to regularly take part in sport.

With the cost of healthcare for diabetes close to $500 million per annum in the United Arab Emirates alone, it is not surprising that the local government is now keen to redress the situation with educational campaigns on healthier eating and large investment in research to find a definitive cure for diabetes. 


Prevention, however, is still the key. Educational campaigns must be tailored to the local population who on average enjoy a high income and purchase a lot of food. It is worth noting that in Saudi Arabia the average person throws away 427kg of food each year, while in the United Arab Emirates, this number "falls" to 196.6kg per capita.

Shifting spending choices away from highly calorific foods such as desserts and meats toward healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables is one of the biggest challenges facing local authorities. Other compounding factors are a challenging farming situation caused by lack of natural rainfall and cultivation methods which, according to the FSI, depend primarily on desalinated water (which is costly both economically and in terms of energy expenditure) and the intensive usage of pesticides and fertilisers.


Gallery

Articles attached

Food and society

Two solid pillars for the Common Agricultural Policy

A set of rules updated over the years ensures Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy will be able to shape innovation and respond to climate change and society’s constantly-evolving needs.

Read all
Food and society

CAP: Europe unites for the benefit of agriculture

Over half a century old and nearly €60bn invested every year: these are just two of the headline figures on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a commitment which highlights the importance of the agro-food system in the European Community.

Read all
Food and sustainability

Indigenous agricultural pratices hold key to maintaining biodiversity & mitigating climate change

In early May 2017, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food hosted its 2nd International Dialogue with over 250 food systems leaders from the local to the global, to gain deeper insights into the connections between climate change and food systems, to craft visions of the food systems we need today and tomorrow, and to chart potential pathways to get there. 

Read all
This website uses cookies to send you adverts and services in line with your preferences. If you want to find out more or block out all or some of the cookies click here.
By closing this banner, scrolling down the page or clicking on any item in it you are accepting the use of cookies.   Read moreI agree