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Diet changes, sedentary lifestyles behind Jordan’s rising obesity rates, study finds

By Mays Ibrahim Mustafa - Jul 06,2023 - Last updated at Jul 06,2023

AMMAN — The Kingdom’s 2023-2030 National Nutrition Strategy indicates a high level of diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in addition to an increased prevalence of overweight and obesity across all age groups in Jordan.

The strategy attributed the phenomenon to the “country’s nutrition transition towards a diet higher in energy-dense, highly-processed foods and beverages, and lower in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, coupled with a more sedentary lifestyle”.

 

Non-communicable diseases

 

Citing the results of the 2019 Jordan National STEPwise Survey (STEPS), the survey showed that 22.1 per cent of adults in Jordan have high blood pressure, of which 48 per cent were unmedicated.

The survey also showed that 20.5 per cent of adults aged 45 to 69 have diabetes (elevated blood glucose) and 17.7 per cent have raised total cholesterol, which can contribute to or exacerbate cardiovascular diseases.

Those with existing cardiovascular conditions or at high risk of developing a cardiovascular condition within the next 10 years account for 24.5 per cent of surveyed adults between 40 and 69 years old.

 

Obesity 

 

The prevalence of overweight and obesity among Jordanian adults increased from 36.4 per cent in 1975 to 66.5 per cent in 2016. This figure is predicted to reach 75 per cent by 2030, the report said.

The 2019 National STEPS survey reported that 60.8 per cent of Jordan’s adult population is overweight or obese, including 53.1 per cent of men and 68.8 per cent of women.

In 2019, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children under 5 years old was 9.2 per cent, with rates higher among boys (11.7 per cent) compared with girls (6.7 per cent). Prevalence rates were lower among children in Syrian refugee camps, with 6.0 per cent affected by overweight or obesity, according to the report. 

The report noted that these levels indicate “a moderate public health problem that warrants policy attention”.

Overweight and obesity rates among school-aged children from 6 to 12 years old were as high as 27.8 per cent in the 2019 survey. 

These rates among children were reported to be higher in the Amman, Zarqa, Madaba and Tafileh governorates. In Syrian refugee camps, 22.2 per cent of school-aged children were affected by obesity or overweight, the report added. 

The prevalence of overweight and obesity among those between the ages of 5 and 19 year increased from 7.5 per cent in 1975 to 31 per cent in 2016, with higher rates reported among females in earlier years, the report showed. 

 

Dietary patterns 

 

“Changes in food consumption patterns over the last two decades in Jordan are undermining healthy diets. Recent data on fruit and vegetable consumption and sodium intake are indicative of the consumption of unhealthy diets, but other data on diets are needed to provide a more comprehensive picture,” the report stated.

The 2019 STEPS survey showed that the consumption of fruits and vegetables is low among different age groups in Jordan, with only 16 per cent of adults in Jordan consuming “the WHO recommended five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day”, although this figure marked a 2 per cent an increase from the previous 2007 STEPS.

The report also showed that the “average daily salt intake was 11g, as measured in the 2019 STEPS survey, which is more than twice the WHO recommendation of less than 5g per day”.

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