Gulf populaces at high risk for diabetes, says ADA official

March 25, 2008

People in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabian Gulf region have a 60 percent lifetime risk of developing diabetes, according to an official of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the Arab News reported today. 

“It is very scary; most people would contract diabetes if they didn’t have the awareness of how to prevent the disease,” said Dr. John B. Buse, ADA President, Medicine and Science, as quoted in the Arab News.

Dr. Buse said that the issue was widely recognized in Saudi Arabia and the big hope for the future was to detect diabetes early when the treatment is easier and generally more successful.

He was speaking at a press conference following the ADA’s educational training program to manage diabetes in Africa and the Middle East held last week in Paris. The program, called “Standing Together Against Diabetes,” was sponsored by an unrestricted educational grant from the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Aventis.

The genetic tendency to diabetes in the Kingdom is high.  Dr. Buse said that according to the “thrifty gene hypothesis,” when starvation and low levels of food have been common in an area for a few centuries, people learned to do without sufficient nourishment. This worked to their advantage three to four generations ago.

Now, however, he noted, there is plenty of food all the time and many people do not perform physical labor as before. As a result, what was once a genetic advantage puts Gulf peoples at risk of diabetes and obesity. In contrast, western Europe experienced no long period of inadequate food and starvation, thus no genetic pressure for survival on little food.

Dr. Buse said that there should be public health campaigns to spread awareness of the need for changes in lifestyles. Additionally, early screening can prevent diabetes and complications with treatment.

The ADA training program was attended by many physicians and other medical professionals from Africa and the Middle East. The program was a milestone in the exchange of diabetes research information between African and Middle Eastern medical professionals and the ADA. The delegates reviewed the ADA’s recommendations on diabetes screening and prevention and the most appropriate kinds of therapy. Participants were given educational tool kits, which allow them to bring the ADA’s message to physicians in their home countries.

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