CAIRO: The Middle East stands out with an especially strong increase in female obesity, with Egypt ranking as one of the world’s top three most obese nations for women, along with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a report said.
The Euromonitor International report attributes the increase in female obesity to the rapid economic growth in the region and subsequent rises in living standards, alongside globalization which brought more international brands, such as McDonalds, into the regional market.
The report cited the increase of per capita annual disposable incomes of females in Egypt which increased by 20.4 percent in real terms over 1990-2010.
Kuwait, Egypt and the UAE ranked first, second and third respectively in terms of female obesity as a proportion of the female population aged above 15 out of 83 countries in 2010. However, the three countries ranked third, twelfth and eighth respectively on the male obesity ranking, highlighting the divergence between sexes.
Female obesity is placing an economic strain on nations while transforming the consumption patterns of their citizens, states the report. Obesity raises the potential for heart disease, diabetes and associated conditions. This can affect output and absenteeism at work, as well as limiting future labor female participation, thus impacting economic growth.
Meanwhile, real consumer expenditure on health goods and medical services has increased by 108.2 percent in Egypt as female consumers are driving demand for health and wellness foods, gym memberships, and pharmaceuticals and vitamins for weight loss.
The report also states that Egypt will see female obesity rise to 53 percent of the female population aged above 15 by 2020.
However, the report noted that healthcare reform is being implemented to reduce the burden of public financing of health services, with a transition from welfare state to a private healthcare model. The transfer of private healthcare costs to consumers is to drive further expenditure in the sector, with real consumer spending on health goods and medical services expected to rise, alongside demand for health and wellness products for women.