Prevalence of overweight and obesity in United Arab Emirates Expatriates: the UAE National Diabetes and Lifestyle Study.

Objective: To describe current prevalence of obesity and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in expatriates living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Methods: We used data from the cross-sectional UAE National Diabetes and Lifestyle Study (UAEDIAB), which surveyed adult expatriates living in the UAE for at least 4 years. We report crude prevalence of overweight and obesity, indicated by gender and ethnicity-specific body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) cut-offs, by lifestyle and biomedical characteristics, as well as age and sex-adjusted odds ratios.

Results: Out of a total of 3064 recruited expatriates (response rate 68%), 2724 had completed all stages of the UAEDIAB study. Expatriates were; 81% men, mean age 38 years (range 18-80), 71% South East Asians, and 36% university graduates. In this sample, the prevalence of overweight and obesity, by BMI, were 43.0 and 32.3%, respectively. 52.4 and 56.5% of participants were at a substantially increased risk according to WC and WHR, respectively. The prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia were 15.5, 31.8, and 51.7%, respectively, with the prevalence of each being higher in those with obesity.

Conclusion: Prevalence of obesity and associated NCDs are extremely high in UAE expatriates. Without comprehensive prevention and management, levels of disease will continue to increase and productivity will fall.