Fast-food is jeopardising health of UAE residents, experts warn

A single slice of Pizza Hut cheese stuffed-crust pizza is about 300 calories, whereas a McDonald's double quarter pounder burger with cheese has 700 calories and about 2.5g of trans fat.

The amount of sodium found in pizzas and burgers is outrageous, says Anna Pettit, a clinical dietician in Dubai. The National
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DUBAI // Gut-busting meals served in fast-food restaurants are placing the health of UAE residents at risk, experts said.
The long-term impact of poor dietary habits will lead to spiralling costs for the Ministry of Health in treating the ensuing diseases, doctors warned.
"It is outrageous the amount of sodium found in pizzas and burgers," said Anna Pettit, a clinical dietician at the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery in Dubai Healthcare City.
"The more salt children have, the more soft drinks they crave - it is a vicious circle."
The recommended daily energy intake for teenagers is about 2,200 calories, depending on activity levels.
A slice of Pizza Hut pizza with cheese-stuffed crust contains about 300 calories, while a McDonald's double quarter pounder burger with cheese has 700 calories and about 2.5 grams of trans fat.
Adults are advised to consume about 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight and have no more than six grams of salt.
When children turn 11 they require nutrition to aid their growth and development, according to Ms Pettit, 37.
But the regular consumption of fast food would deprive them of nutrients such as vitamins A and C, calcium and fibre, she said.
Childhood obesity could ensue and lead to the health problems that obese adults experience, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. "Even the threat of sight-loss or limb amputation as a result of diabetes is not enough for some people to change their diet," said Ms Pettit.
"There is a certain degree of non-compliance in some people who don't want to take responsibility for their own health . but there must be a combination of exercise and healthy eating."
Chef Magalie Paillard, a nutritionist in Dubai, called for tougher regulation of fast food, with consumers given more information about the food they eat.
"I see fast food as the devil, pure and simple," she said. "It elevates your bad cholesterol, decreases good cholesterol and increases fat in the blood.
"In an ideal world, fast food should be taxed, like cigarettes. Slowly we are getting there, but in Dubai it is an entirely different world.
"The influence is very much on American food and standards. Eating junk food as often as twice a week means you are sitting on a time bomb and playing a dangerous game with your health."
Dubai Health Authority said that awareness of the health risks associated with fast food was improving, with steps taken to encourage exercise and healthy eating.
Its clinical nutrition department is conducting 12 awareness campaigns at walking tracks across Dubai from now until April.
"Nobody knows what the fat and salt content of fast food is. Once they know what is in the food they are eating, the easier it will be for them to make the right choices," said Karim Meeran, a professor of endocrinology, at a recent diabetes conference held by Arab Health Congress.
"We need to make clear that people know that if they make a healthy choice, there will be less diabetes."
Prof Meeran said there were a lot of diabetes sufferers in the region, but it was unclear whether increasing the price of fast food would make a difference.
"You set the bar with children. They must not be exposed to all this unhealthy food," he said.