In a survey, The Lancet gave Saudi an overweight score of 86%—behind just Malta and Swaziland—at a time when 25% of its population has diabetes.
The survey prompted Saudi dieticians and doctors to warn through social media about the dangers bad eating habits.
Khalid Al-Ajjaji, a Riyadh-based doctor questioned the figure, argued that another, local study found that 70% of Saudis were overweight, though not obese.
“Many people mix obesity with being overweight. This differs as per the body mass index,” he said.
Dr Al-Ajjaji added that obesity was not a hereditary disease, but eating habits were mainly to blame for it.
A lack of physical activity, late nights and eating just before sleeping were among the most likely causes for Saudi obesity.
“The solution of this disease lies in creating awareness in society for improving the eating habits and promoting the sports culture,” he added.
Meanwhile, rising incidences of obesity among Saudi children are sparking concern among parents and doctors in the kingdom.
More than 1.5m of children—equating to 37%—are now overweight, said experts as they called for a comprehensive plan to fight the condition.
Samira Hussein Al-Jabali and Rawan Nabih Rakkah, both specialists in nutrition in Hiraa’ general hospital in Mecca, said that growing number of children display symptoms of overweight and obesity, and the community should be warned about the dangers of this condition.
“Educational campaigns should be carried out in hospitals, schools, universities, shopping malls and through social media,” they said.