20 teenagers attend Health Ministry's obesity programme

The camp teaches how to follow a healthy eating plan with a target of losing at least half a kilogram a week.

ABU DHABI // Call it a camp of calorie counting. Twenty overweight teenagers are attending a Ministry of Health obesity programme where they will follow a healthy eating plan with a target of losing at least half a kilogram a week. The campers, aged between 15 and 18 and weighing between 90 and 145 kilograms, are following a strict calorie-controlled diet and fitness programme for more than 13 hours a day for the rest of the month. The programme, which started on July 3, is being run in Al Dhaid, between Sharjah and Fujairah.

Maysoon al Shaer, director of health education at the ministry, said all those taking part would have medical tests to look for any obesity-related health problems. "All the meals include 1,500 calories only in addition to sports activities and lectures every four days about obesity." She said the participants would learn everything from healthy meal preparation to the importance of drinking at least 1.5 litres of water a day.

"The programme aims to reduce the weight of the participants by one to one-and-a-half kilos per week," she added. The young people were screened for diabetes, hormone deficiencies and high blood pressure before being accepted onto the programme. Their daily schedule runs from 5.30am to 7pm with physical activities as well as lectures about good food habits. They will be encouraged to follow a healthy lifestyle when they finish camp.

According to the UN, childhood obesity affects one in eight children in the country. Children as young as four have been diagnosed with obesity, putting them at risk of long-term health problems including diabetes and heart disease. Doctors have seen children under 10 years of age with type 2 diabetes, which was previously seen as a disease of the above-40 age group and described as adult-onset diabetes.

The Ministry of Health will also be hosting a series of lectures at youth centres in the Northern Emirates to warn of dangers of smoking. @Email:munderwood@thenational.ae