Children develop their eating habits at a very young age. Getty Images
Children develop their eating habits at a very young age. Getty Images

Parental education is a simple tool to avoid obesity in toddlers, experts say



Poor diets in toddlers and the lack of nutritional education among parents about the risks of obesity were key findings from rare research conducted in the UAE.

Dr Dana Al Tarrah completed a study on preschool children at a school in Al Ain, of which 97 per cent were Emirati children, to identify risk factors of pre-school obesity and test the impact of a six-month lifestyle intervention.

A simple intervention proved effective in encouraging parents to switch children to a healthier diet and physical-activity habits.

"I was aware of the cultural factors around childhood obesity in the region and the lack of parental recognition of their child's weight status," said Dr Al Tarrah, assistant professor at the faculty of public health, social and behavioural sciences at Kuwait University, which led the research in collaboration with UAE University and University College London.

“Children are a sensitive population, and we tried to avoid the terminology of obese and fat.

“Most parents were unconcerned about the heaviness of a child, and one noticeable trend was that plumpness was viewed as a sign of prosperity.

“Overall, parents were not aware of obesity being a problem in children.”

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally and poses a considerable burden on a child’s short- and long-term health. Most obesity presents in the early pre-school years, and once established tracks into later life.

While the rising UAE prevalence of childhood obesity is a major public-health concern, few previous studies have explored its risk factors.

Dr Al Tarrah aimed to identify the risks linked to pre-school obesity in the UAE, describe the children's dietary intake and, in a randomised controlled trial, investigate the effectiveness of the Eat Right Emirates tool, a simple leaflet intervention designed to encourage a healthy lifestyle and prevent pre-school obesity.

“The misclassification of their child’s weight status among parents was about 80 per cent, which is comparable to other studies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Dr Al Tarrah said.

“While the school had 402 preschool children, only 150 were willing to participate.

“It is a cultural issue, because not many people in this region are exposed to this kind of research.

“Mothers generally were not aware that children tend to refuse unfamiliar foods, and only through repeated exposures will they influence their child's acceptability."

________________

Read more:

Fattest generation - millennials - could face cancer crisis, say UAE doctors

'BMI blindness' means parents are failing to spot childhood obesity warning signs, study finds

Dubai school's 'mini boot camps' for children as young as four

_________________

Following the study, many mothers wanted more information on obesity, particularly related to portion size for pre-school children.

The study found a longer duration of breastfeeding and later introduction of complementary foods were associated with a lower BMI score in toddlers.

When compared with British dietary guidelines, researchers also found pre-school children in the UAE exceeded intakes of protein, but did not meet recommended intakes for fibre.

A high carbohydrate intake as a percentage of energy was associated with a lower BMI score, and high fat intake with a higher reading.

Researchers concluded that a simple intervention offering parents simple and concise information on healthy dietary habits and physical activity was an effective tool in preventing obesity.

In December, the first Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity Forum vowed to take dietary education into the classroom, to encourage children to make more informed healthy-eating choices for themselves.

“We envision the UAE school environment to be one that promotes the health of the children, healthy food options, physical activity opportunities and mental well-being,” said Dr Shatha Al Ghazali, head of cancer prevention at the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, who said the school environment is critical to a successful campaign against childhood obesity.

“We are proposing to transform the classroom design in schools to include different kinds of physical activities that children like and will be engaged in.”

The long-term vision is to equip all schools with technology-driven solutions that not only reduce the number of children suffering from being overweight and obese, but also gets the teachers and parents more involved.

Dr Gowri Ramanathan, chief medical officer at King’s College Hospital London in the UAE, said one of the reasons childhood obesity has grown to such high levels is because of the problem parents have spotting it.

“In the UAE, the problem is compounded by a majority of parents who self-diagnose,” she said.

“Self-diagnosis bypasses primary care by professional health-care providers and often leads to the loss of valuable information.”

A study conducted last year by Sharjah Education Council’s health care division showed that among 40,770 students in Sharjah’s 125 public schools, 410 suffer from asthenia (abnormal physical weakness or lack of energy), 586 pupils from asthma and 2,425 from obesity.

The survey also revealed that 357 students suffer from anaemia, 74 students were found diabetic and of these most suffer from the Type 1 diabetes

Rajaa Basheer, supervisor of Sharjah Health and Safety department, said that surveys covering all Sharjah public schools are carried out annually to list the number of students suffering from diseases and to identify change from last year’s results.

“Some sick students are offered help through medical programmes, while others are referred to specialised physicians,” she said.

“We also organise awareness campaigns in co-ordination with the Ministry of Health about the types of the most prevalent diseases.”

THE SPECS

Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 hybrid
Power: 653hp at 5,400rpm
Torque: 800Nm at 1,600-5,000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto
0-100kph in 4.3sec
Top speed 250kph
Fuel consumption: NA
On sale: Q2 2023
Price: From Dh750,000

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Kandahar

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Stars: Gerard Butler, Navid Negahban, Ali Fazal

Rating: 2.5/5

J Street Polling Results

97% of Jewish-Americans are concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism

76% of US Jewish voters believe Donald Trump and his allies in the Republican Party are responsible for a rise in anti-Semitism

74% of American Jews agreed that “Trump and the Maga movement are a threat to Jews in America"

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

The Roundup : No Way Out

Director: Lee Sang-yong
Stars: Don Lee, Lee Jun-hyuk, Munetaka Aoki
Rating: 3/5

Formula 4 Italian Championship 2023 calendar

April 21-23: Imola
May 5-7: Misano
May 26-28: SPA-Francorchamps
June 23-25: Monza
July 21-23: Paul Ricard
Sept 29-Oct 1: Mugello
Oct 13-15: Vallelunga

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Story behind the UAE flag

The UAE flag was first unveiled on December 2, 1971, the day the UAE was formed. 

It was designed by Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, 19, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi. 

Mr Al Maainah said in an interview with The National in 2011 he chose the colours for local reasons. 

The black represents the oil riches that transformed the UAE, green stands for fertility and the red and white colours were drawn from those found in existing emirate flags.

UAE'S YOUNG GUNS

1 Esha Oza, age 26, 79 matches

2 Theertha Satish, age 20, 66 matches

3 Khushi Sharma, age 21, 65 matches

4 Kavisha Kumari, age 21, 79 matches

5 Heena Hotchandani, age 23, 16 matches

6 Rinitha Rajith, age 18, 34 matches

7 Samaira Dharnidharka, age 17, 53 matches

8 Vaishnave Mahesh, age 17, 68 matches

9 Lavanya Keny, age 17, 33 matches

10 Siya Gokhale, age 18, 33 matches

11 Indhuja Nandakumar, age 18, 46 matches

If you go

Flying

Despite the extreme distance, flying to Fairbanks is relatively simple, requiring just one transfer in Seattle, which can be reached directly from Dubai with Emirates for Dh6,800 return.

 

Touring

Gondwana Ecotours’ seven-day Polar Bear Adventure starts in Fairbanks in central Alaska before visiting Kaktovik and Utqiarvik on the North Slope. Polar bear viewing is highly likely in Kaktovik, with up to five two-hour boat tours included. Prices start from Dh11,500 per person, with all local flights, meals and accommodation included; gondwanaecotours.com 

Black Panther
Dir: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o
Five stars

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

The specs

Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6

Power: 540hp at 6,500rpm

Torque: 600Nm at 2,500rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed auto

Kerb weight: 1580kg

Price: From Dh750k

On sale: via special order

The design

The protective shell is covered in solar panels to make use of light and produce energy. This will drastically reduce energy loss.

More than 80 per cent of the energy consumed by the French pavilion will be produced by the sun.

The architecture will control light sources to provide a highly insulated and airtight building.

The forecourt is protected from the sun and the plants will refresh the inner spaces.

A micro water treatment plant will recycle used water to supply the irrigation for the plants and to flush the toilets. This will reduce the pavilion’s need for fresh water by 30 per cent.

Energy-saving equipment will be used for all lighting and projections.

Beyond its use for the expo, the pavilion will be easy to dismantle and reuse the material.

Some elements of the metal frame can be prefabricated in a factory.

 From architects to sound technicians and construction companies, a group of experts from 10 companies have created the pavilion.

Work will begin in May; the first stone will be laid in Dubai in the second quarter of 2019. 

Construction of the pavilion will take 17 months from May 2019 to September 2020.

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Company profile

Company name: Leap
Started: March 2021
Founders: Ziad Toqan and Jamil Khammu
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Funds raised: Undisclosed
Current number of staff: Seven

Company profile

Name: Tabby
Founded: August 2019; platform went live in February 2020
Founder/CEO: Hosam Arab, co-founder: Daniil Barkalov
Based: Dubai, UAE
Sector: Payments
Size: 40-50 employees
Stage: Series A
Investors: Arbor Ventures, Mubadala Capital, Wamda Capital, STV, Raed Ventures, Global Founders Capital, JIMCO, Global Ventures, Venture Souq, Outliers VC, MSA Capital, HOF and AB Accelerator.


The UAE Today

The latest news and analysis from the Emirates

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      The UAE Today