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‘Changing lifestyles push Kingdom’s child obesity rate above 50%’

By Suzanna Goussous - Feb 04,2016 - Last updated at Feb 04,2016

AMMAN — Changing daily habits and lifestyles have contributed to an increasing percentage of obesity in the Kingdom, specialists have agreed.

Around 40 per cent of Jordanian adults are obese, while child obesity in the Kingdom stands at more than 50 per cent, due to genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle changes, said endocrinologist Abdelkarim Khawaldeh.

Faten Nashash, owner of a centre for nutrition consultation, said more than 80 per cent of Jordanian women are either overweight or obese, with an increasing percentage every year.

Nashash told The Jordan Times that although people today are not as physically active as those from previous generations, awareness of healthier ways to cook food has increased over the years.

Khawaldeh said the most common cause of weight gain is eating a lot of junk food and sugar-rich sweets, in addition to not getting enough hours of sleep.

The proper amount of sleep for adults ranges between six and eight hours per night depending on the individual, he said, noting that many teenagers nowadays sleep all day and stay awake all night, which he described as unhealthy. 

“Six to eight hours of sleep are beneficial for the body. Processes like metabolism and ovulation occur while sleeping,” Nashash agreed.

Obesity rates can be measured using the Body Mass Index, in which the body’s mass is divided by height in metres squared (kg/m2). This figure indicates the status of the human body in regard to muscle, water and fat rates.

If the result is less than 18.5, the person is underweight, and if the outcome ranges between 18.5 and 24.9, the weight is normal, Nashash said.

“If the result is between 25 and 29.9 they are overweight, from 30 to 34.9 the person suffers from obesity level one, 35 to 39.9 obesity level two, higher than 40, obesity level three,” she noted.

To achieve a healthier lifestyle, one has to change a daily cycle, she said, adding that “it is a balance cycle of eating, moving, drinking water regularly and getting enough hours of sleep” .

As for children, paediatrician Fawzi Hammouri said obesity is an epidemic among them that needs to be dealt with, with lifestyle changes and bad eating habits responsible for around 95 per cent of obesity cases. 

“Obesity rates are increasing globally, yet with a higher percentage in the region. Children nowadays don’t walk, work out, or play football in courts. They have replaced outdoor activities with indoor games on technological devices,” he told The Jordan Times. 

Even the food most children eat is high in calories and starch, and the preferred type of cooking is frying, Hammouri said, which is a factor behind the increasing rate of obesity. 

“Gaining weight is the result of [food] intake and consumption stored in the form of fat,” he added.

The 5 per cent of obesity cases that cannot be attributed to lifestyle or eating habits are caused by other factors such as insulin resistance, diabetes, lack of pyroxene in the blood, or excessive secretion of cortisone, according to Hammouri.

Khawaldeh singled out insulin resistance as one of the important factors in gaining or failing to lose weight.

“Insulin is a hormone in the human body produced by the pancreas to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. However, the deficiency of the hormone can cause type 2 diabetes or obesity,” he said. 

Symptoms of insulin resistance include brain fogginess, high levels of blood sugar, intestinal bloating, sleepiness, weight gain, fat storage, difficulty losing weight, increased blood pressure, depression and increased hunger.

The nutritionist urged the public to check insulin rates in the body when they start to sense these symptoms and take proper medication if needed. 

Nashash observed that many people tend to follow the pattern of “crash diets”, which are low in calories, in order to lose weight; however, she said these have a negative impact on muscle mass and water retention in the body.

The nutritionist added that eating regularly in small portions helps the body perform metabolism, emphasising the importance of not skipping meals. 

“The more regular the meals are, the better the metabolism,” she said. “If one skips more meals the fat is stored inside the body to avoid dizziness.”

“Roasting food instead of frying it is healthier,” Nashash noted. “The food can also be boiled, but it tastes better when roasted.” 

She also noted that the human body does not distinguish between hunger and thirst, advising people to drink water when they feel hungry.


The specialists agreed that dishes should include healthier ingredients on a daily basis, rich with fibre and protein, and people should regulate their meals so the body will have a specific time for all digestive processes.

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