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2.  Perceived Barriers to Healthy Eating and Physical Activity among Adolescents in Seven Arab Countries: A Cross-Cultural Study 
The Scientific World Journal  2013;2013:232164.
Objective. To highlight the perceived personal, social, and environmental barriers to healthy eating and physical activity among Arab adolescents. Method. A multistage stratified sampling method was used to select 4698 students aged 15–18 years (2240 males and 2458 females) from public schools. Seven Arab counties were included in the study, namely, Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Palestine, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. Self-reported questionnaire was used to list the barriers to healthy eating and physical activity facing these adolescents. Results. It was found that lack of information on healthy eating, lack of motivation to eat a healthy diet, and not having time to prepare or eat healthy food were the main barriers to healthy eating among both genders. For physical activity, the main barriers selected were lack of motivation to do physical activity, less support from teachers, and lack of time to do physical activity. In general, females faced more barriers to physical activity than males in all countries included. There were significant differences between males and females within each country and among countries for most barriers. Conclusion. Intervention programmes to combat obesity and other chronic noncommunicable diseases in the Arab world should include solutions to overcome the barriers to weight maintenance, particularly the sociocultural barriers to practising physical activity.
doi:10.1155/2013/232164
PMCID: PMC3848306  PMID: 24348144
3.  Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity among Adolescents in Seven Arab Countries: A Cross-Cultural Study 
Journal of Obesity  2012;2012:981390.
Objective. The aim of this study was to find out the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescents in seven Arab countries using similar reference standard. Methods. A school-based cross-sectional study was carried out in seven cities in Arab countries, namely, Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Palestine, Syria, and United Arab Emirates. A multistage stratified random sampling technique was used. The total sample included was 4698 adolescents aged from 15 to 18 years (2240 males, 2458 females). The International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) reference standard was used to classify the adolescents as nonobese, overweight, and obese. Results. Among males, overweight was highest among Kuwaiti adolescents (25.6%), followed by Jordanian (21.6%), and Syrian (19.7%) adolescents. Among females, the highest prevalence of overweight was reported in Libyan adolescents (26.6%), followed by Kuwaiti (20.8%), and Syrian (19.7%) adolescents. As for obesity, Kuwaiti adolescents showed the highest prevalence of obesity for both males (34.8%) and females (20.6%). Conclusion. There is an urgent need to establish a plan of action to combat obesity in schoolchildren in these countries.
doi:10.1155/2012/981390
PMCID: PMC3458285  PMID: 23029605
4.  Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for the Arab Gulf Countries 
The concept of food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) has been promoted by several international organizations. However, there are no FBDG for the countries in the Arab region. As the Arab Gulf countries share similar a socioeconomic and nutrition situation, an attempt was made to develop FBDG for these countries. This paper summarizes the steps taken to develope such guidelines by the Arab Center for Nutrition. The FBDG were developed through 6 steps: (1) determination of the purpose and goals for establishing FBDG, (2) characteristics of FBDG, (3) determination of the food consumption patterns, (4) review the current nutrition situation, (5) determination of the lifestyle patterns that are associated with diet-related diseases and (6) formulating the FBDG. The FBDG consist of 14 simple and practical pieces of advice taking into consideration the sociocultural status and nutritional problems in the Arab Gulf countries. The FBDG can be a useful tool in educating the public in healthy eating and prevention of diet-related chronic diseases.
doi:10.1155/2012/905303
PMCID: PMC3278924  PMID: 22347625
5.  Overweight and Obesity in Eastern Mediterranean Region: Prevalence and Possible Causes 
Journal of Obesity  2011;2011:407237.
The objective of this paper was to explore the prevalence of overweight and obesity among various age groups as well as discuss the possible factors that associated with obesity in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). A systematic review of published papers between 1990 and 2011 was carried out. Obesity reached an alarming level in all age groups of the EMR countries. The prevalence of overweight among preschool children(<5 years) ranged from 1.9% to 21.9%, while the prevalence of overweight and obesity among school children ranged from 7% to 45%. Among adults the prevalence of overweight and obesity ranged from 25% to 81.9%. Possible factors determining obesity in this region include: nutrition transition, inactivity, urbanization, marital status, a shorter duration of breastfeeding, frequent snacking, skipping breakfast, a high intake of sugary beverages, an increase in the incidence of eating outside the home, long periods of time spent viewing television, massive marketing promotion of high fat foods, stunting, perceived body image, cultural elements and food subsidize policy. A national plan of action to overcome obesity is urgently needed to reduce the economic and health burden of obesity in this region.
doi:10.1155/2011/407237
PMCID: PMC3175401  PMID: 21941635
6.  Dietary and lifestyle habits amongst adolescents in Bahrain 
Food & Nutrition Research  2011;55:10.3402/fnr.v55i0.7122.
Background
Changes in dietary habits and lifestyle are considered the main factors associated with several diet-related diseases in the Arab Gulf countries. The aim of this study was, therefore, to describe the dietary and lifestyle habits amongst adolescents in Bahrain.
Design
A cross-sectional study was carried out amongst male and female secondary school students selected using the multi-stage stratified random sampling technique. A sample size of 735 subjects (339 males and 396 females), aged 15–18 years, was selected from government schools from all the governorates of Bahrain.
Results
Skipping breakfast was significantly greater in females (62.8%) compared to males (37.2%), (P<0.01). About 88% of adolescents snacked during school break, 70.7% procuring food from the school canteen. Fruit was not consumed by about 27.7% of respondents (33.5% males, 66.5% females) and the gender difference was statistically significant (P<0.01). Fish and lentils were less preferred, while chicken was more popular. There was no significant difference between gender and frequency of eating fast food. About 8.4% of respondents reported not eating burgers, with 68.8% preferring regular size burgers. Furthermore, 24.4% preferred large portions of potato chips (53.1% male, 46.9% female). About 29.8% watched TV for more than 5 hours a day (51.2% females, 48.8% males). About 69% of males practiced sports everyday as against 30.8% of females (P<0.01) and 81.6% of those who participated in sport activity outside school were males compared to 18.4% of females.
Conclusion
It seems that the adolescents in Bahrain are moving toward unhealthy dietary habits and lifestyles, which in turn will affect their health status in the future. Promoting healthy lifestyle and eating habits should be given a priority in school health programs.
doi:10.3402/fnr.v55i0.7122
PMCID: PMC3171216  PMID: 21912533
Bahrain; adolescents; food intake; fast foods; lifestyle; physical activity
7.  Right Diet: a television series to combat obesity among adolescents in Kuwait 
Background
Adolescent obesity is a growing public health problem in Kuwait. Reducing obesity can lower the risk of several chronic diseases. Fourteen obese adolescent boys volunteered to participate in a 6-month multidimensional television series on weight loss.
Methods
The adolescent boys were recruited through advertisements in schools. The program included counseling sessions, nutritional education, exercise, family support, peer group involvement, and incentives designed to motivate participants.
Results
The mean age of the boys was 15.6 ± 0.8 years. On average, subjects lost 10.6 ± 8.9 kg in weight and gained 3.3 ± 1.6 cm in height during the study period. The difference in mean body mass index at baseline and at 6 months following intervention was significant (P < 0.001) at 36.8 ± 4.6 and 32.0 ± 5.4, kg/m2 respectively. Participants ranked counseling as the most important component of the program, followed by family support and type of program.
Conclusion
This type of television series could be used as a model for future public health programs to prevent and control obesity among adolescents.
doi:10.2147/DMSO.S32636
PMCID: PMC3402008  PMID: 22826638
diet; television; obesity; adolescents
8.  Prevalence and risk factors associated with nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean region 
This paper reviews the current situation concerning nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases (N-NCDs) and the risk factors associated with these diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean region (EMR). A systematic literature review of studies and reports published between January 1, 1990 and September 15, 2011 was conducted using the PubMed and Google Scholar databases. Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, cancer, and osteoporosis have become the main causes of morbidity and mortality, especially with progressive aging of the population. The estimated mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease and diabetes ranged from 179.8 to 765.2 per 100,000 population, with the highest rates in poor countries. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was very high, ranging from 19% to 45%. The prevalence of overweight and obesity (body mass index ≥25 kg/m2) has reached an alarming level in most countries of the region, ranging from 25% to 82%, with a higher prevalence among women. The estimated mortality rate for cancer ranged from 61.9 to 151 per 100,000 population. Osteoporosis has become a critical problem, particularly among women. Several risk factors may be contributing to the high prevalence of N-NCDs in EMR, including nutrition transition, low intake of fruit and vegetables, demographic transition, urbanization, physical inactivity, hypertension, tobacco smoking, stunting of growth of preschool children, and lack of nutrition and health awareness. Intervention programs to prevent and control N-NCDs are urgently needed, with special focus on promotion of healthy eating and physical activity.
doi:10.2147/IJGM.S29663
PMCID: PMC3295618  PMID: 22399864
nutrition transition; noncommunicable diseases; metabolic syndrome; obesity; physical activity; Eastern Mediterranean
9.  Strategy to combat obesity and to promote physical activity in Arab countries 
Obesity has become a major public health problem in the Arab countries, creating a health and economic burden on these countries’ government services. There is an urgent need to develop a strategy for prevention and control of obesity. The third Arab Conference on Obesity and Physical Activity was held in Bahrain in January 2010, and proposed the Strategy to Combat Obesity and Promote Physical Activity in Arab Countries. This strategy provides useful guidelines for each Arab country to prepare its own strategy or plan of action to prevent and control obesity. The strategy focused on expected outcomes, objectives, indicators to measure the objectives, and action needs for 9 target areas: child-care centers for preschool children, schools, primary health care, secondary care, food companies, food preparation institutes, media, public benefit organizations, and the workplace. Follow-up and future developments of this strategy were also included.
doi:10.2147/DMSO.S17322
PMCID: PMC3107691  PMID: 21660292
obesity; physical activity; strategy; Arab countries
10.  A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Health Behaviors between Saudi and British Adolescents Living in Urban Areas: Gender by Country Analyses 
This study investigated the cross-cultural differences and similarity in health behaviors between Saudi and British adolescents. A school-based cross-sectional study was conducted at four cities in Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Al-Khobar; N = 1,648) and Britain (Birmingham and Coventry; N = 1,158). The participants (14–18 year-olds) were randomly selected using a multistage stratified cluster sampling technique. Measurements included anthropometric, screen time, validated physical activity (PA) questionnaire and dietary habits. The overweight/obesity prevalence among Saudi adolescents (38.3%) was significantly (p < 0.001) higher than that found among British adolescents (24.1%). The British adolescents demonstrated higher total PA energy expenditure than Saudi adolescents (means ± SE = 3,804.8 ± 81.5 vs. 2,219.9 ± 65.5 METs-min/week). Inactivity prevalence was significantly (p < 0.001) higher among Saudi adolescents (64%) compared with that of British adolescents (25.5%). The proportions of adolescents exceeding 2 h of daily screen time were high (88.0% and 90.8% among Saudis and British, respectively). The majority of Saudi and British adolescents did not have daily intakes of breakfast, fruit, vegetables and milk. MANCOVA showed significant (p < 0.05) gender by country interactions in several lifestyle factors. There was a significant (p < 0.001) gender differences in the ratio of physical activity to sedentary behaviors. In conclusion, Saudi and British adolescents demonstrated some similarities and differences in their PA levels, sedentary behaviors and dietary habits. Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors among adolescents appear to be a cross-cultural phenomenon.
doi:10.3390/ijerph10126701
PMCID: PMC3881136  PMID: 24300072
adolescents; British; culture; dietary habits; lifestyle factors; physical activity; Saudi; screen time; sedentary behaviors
11.  Prevalence of short sleep duration and its association with obesity among adolescents 15- to 19-year olds: A cross-sectional study from three major cities in Saudi Arabia 
Annals of Thoracic Medicine  2012;7(3):133-139.
BACKGROUND:
Adequate sleep has been considered important for the adolescent's health and well being. On the other hand, self-imposed sleep curtailment is now recognized as a potentially important and novel risk factor for obesity. The present study aimed to assess the prevalence of short sleep duration and its association with obesity among Saudi adolescents.
METHODS:
This is a school-based cross-sectional study with self-reported sleep questionnaires. It was conducted during the years 2009/2010 in three cities in Saudi Arabia; Al-Khobar, Jeddah, and Riyadh. Participants were 2868 secondary-school males (1379) and females (1389) aged 15 to 19 years, randomly selected using a multistage stratified sampling technique. Measurements included weight, height, waist circumference, BMI, and sleeping duration. Logistic regression analysis while adjusted for age, gender, and location was used to examine the associations between sleep duration and obesity measures.
RESULTS:
The mean (SD) of sleep duration was 7.2 (1.6) hours/day with no significant differences between males and females. About 31% of the participants obtain less than 7 hours of sleep per day, while approximately 50% of the sample gets less than 8 hours of daily sleep. Two-way ANCOVA results while controlling for the effect of age revealed a significant gender by school-type interaction (P<0.001). In addition, adequate sleep duration increased the odds of having normal weight (adjusted odds ratios = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.08-1.50, P = 0.003).
CONCLUSION:
The present study observed a high prevalence of short sleep duration among Saudi adolescents 15- to 19-year olds and that short sleep duration was significantly associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity. Future interventions should investigate whether adopting a healthy lifestyle by adolescents with short sleep duration would improve their sleeping habits or not.
doi:10.4103/1817-1737.98845
PMCID: PMC3425044  PMID: 22924070
Adolescents; obesity; Saudi Arabia; sleep duration; waist circumference
12.  Lifestyle factors associated with overweight and obesity among Saudi adolescents 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:354.
Background
A better understanding of the relationships between obesity and lifestyle factors is necessary for effective prevention and management of obesity in youth. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the associations between obesity measures and several lifestyle factors, including physical activity, sedentary behaviors and dietary habits among Saudi adolescents aged 14–19 years.
Methods
This was a school-based cross-sectional study that was conducted in three cities in Saudi Arabia (Al-Khobar, Jeddah and Riyadh). The participants were 2906 secondary school males (1400) and females (1506) aged 14–19 years, who were randomly selected using a multistage stratified cluster sampling technique. Measurements included weight, height, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, waist/height ratio (WHtR), screen time (television viewing, video games and computer use), physical activity (determined using a validated questionnaire), and dietary habits (intake frequency per week). Logistic regression was used to examine the associations between obesity and lifestyle factors.
Results
Compared with non-obese, obese males and females were significantly less active, especially in terms of vigorous activity, had less favorable dietary habits (e.g., lower intake of breakfast, fruits and milk), but had lower intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and sweets/chocolates. Logistic regression analysis showed that overweight/obesity (based on BMI categories) or abdominal obesity (based on WHtR categories) were significantly and inversely associated with vigorous physical activity levels (aOR for high level = 0.69, 95% CI 0.41–0.92 for BMI and 0.63, 95% CI 0.45–0.89 for WHtR) and frequency of breakfast (aOR for < 3 days/week = 1.44; 95% CI 1.20–1.71 for BMI and 1.47; 95% CI 1.22–1.76 for WHtR) and vegetable (aOR for < 3 days/week = 1.29; 95% CI 1.03–1.59 for WHtR) intakes, and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (aOR for < 3 days/week = 1.32; 95% CI 1.08–1.62 for BMI and 1.42; 95% CI 1.16–1.75 for WHtR).
Conclusions
The present study identified several lifestyle factors associated with obesity that may represent valid targets for the prevention and management of obesity among Saudi adolescents. Primary prevention of obesity by promoting active lifestyles and healthy diets should be a national public health priority.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-354
PMCID: PMC3433359  PMID: 22591544
Adolescents; Dietary habits; Lifestyle; Overweight; Obesity; Physical activity; Saudi Arabia; Sedentary behaviors
13.  Physical activity, sedentary behaviors and dietary habits among Saudi adolescents relative to age, gender and region 
Background
Few lifestyle factors have been simultaneously studied and reported for Saudi adolescents. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to report on the prevalence of physical activity, sedentary behaviors and dietary habits among Saudi adolescents and to examine the interrelationships among these factors using representative samples drawn from three major cities in Saudi Arabia.
Methods
This school-based cross-sectional study was conducted during the years 2009-2010 in three cities: Al-Khobar, Jeddah and Riyadh. The participants were 2908 secondary-school males (1401) and females (1507) aged 14-19 years, randomly selected using a multistage stratified sampling technique. Measurements included weight, height, sedentary behaviors (TV viewing, playing video games and computer use), physical activity using a validated questionnaire and dietary habits.
Results
A very high proportion (84% for males and 91.2% for females) of Saudi adolescents spent more than 2 hours on screen time daily and almost half of the males and three-quarters of the females did not meet daily physical activity guidelines. The majority of adolescents did not have a daily intake of breakfast, fruit, vegetables and milk. Females were significantly (p < 0.05) more sedentary, much less physically active, especially with vigorous physical activity, and there were fewer days per week when they consumed breakfast, fruit, milk and diary products, sugar-sweetened drinks, fast foods and energy drinks than did males. However, the females' intake of French fries and potato chips, cakes and donuts, and candy and chocolate was significantly (p < 0.05) higher than the males'. Screen time was significantly (p < 0.05) correlated inversely with the intake of breakfast, vegetables and fruit. Physical activity had a significant (p < 0.05) positive relationship with fruit and vegetable intake but not with sedentary behaviors.
Conclusions
The high prevalence of sedentary behaviors, physical inactivity and unhealthy dietary habits among Saudi adolescents is a major public health concern. There is an urgent need for national policy promoting active living and healthy eating and reducing sedentary behaviors among children and adolescents in Saudi Arabia.
doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-140
PMCID: PMC3339333  PMID: 22188825
Physical activity; sedentary behaviors; dietary habits; lifestyle factors; adolescents; Saudi Arabia
14.  Arab Teens Lifestyle Study (ATLS): objectives, design, methodology and implications 
Background
There is a lack of comparable data on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and dietary habits among Arab adolescents, which limits our understanding and interpretation of the relationship between obesity and lifestyle parameters. Therefore, we initiated the Arab Teens Lifestyle Study (ATLS). The ATLS is a multicenter collaborative project for assessing lifestyle habits of Arab adolescents. The objectives of the ATLS project were to investigate the prevalence rates for overweight and obesity, physical activity, sedentary activity and dietary habits among Arab adolescents, and to examine the interrelationships between these lifestyle variables. This paper reports on the objectives, design, methodology, and implications of the ATLS.
Design/Methods
The ATLS is a school-based cross-sectional study involving 9182 randomly selected secondary-school students (14–19 years) from major Arab cities, using a multistage stratified sampling technique. The participating Arab cities included Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al-Khobar (Saudi Arabia), Bahrain, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Kuwait, Amman (Jordan), Mosel (Iraq), Muscat (Oman), Tunisia (Tunisia) and Kenitra (Morocco). Measured variables included anthropometric measurements, physical activity, sedentary behavior, sleep duration, and dietary habits.
Discussion
The ATLS project will provide a unique opportunity to collect and analyze important lifestyle information from Arab adolescents using standardized procedures. This is the first time a collaborative Arab project will simultaneously assess broad lifestyle variables in a large sample of adolescents from numerous urbanized Arab regions. This joint research project will supply us with comprehensive and recent data on physical activity/inactivity and eating habits of Arab adolescents relative to obesity. Such invaluable lifestyle-related data are crucial for developing public health policies and regional strategies for health promotion and disease prevention.
doi:10.2147/DMSO.S26676
PMCID: PMC3257970  PMID: 22253540
lifestyle; obesity; physical activity; sedentary behavior; dietary habits
15.  The Paradox of Nutrition-Related Diseases in the Arab Countries: The Need for Action 
The aim of this review was to highlight the current situation of nutrition-related diseases in the Arab countries, and factors associated with prevalence of these diseases. PubMed and Google Scholar were searched for data relating to such nutrition-related diseases published between January 1990 and May 2011. The picture of nutritional status in the Arab countries has changed drastically over the past 30 years as a result of changes in the social and economic situation. Two contrasting nutrition-related diseases exist, those associated with inadequate intake of nutrients and unhealthy dietary habits such as growth retardation among young children and micronutrient deficiencies; and those associated with changes in lifestyle such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity (diet-related non-communicable diseases). Factors contributing to nutritional problems vary from country to country, depending on socio-economic status. In general, unsound dietary habits, poor sanitation, poverty, ignorance and lack of access to safe water and health services are mainly responsible for under-nutrition. Changes in lifestyle and dietary habits as well as inactivity are associated with the occurrence of diet-related non-communicable diseases. Programs to prevent and control nutrition-related diseases are insufficient and ineffective, due mainly to a focus on curative care at the expense of preventive health care services, lack of epidemiological studies, lack of nutritional surveillance, inadequate nutrition information and lack of assessment of the cost-effectiveness of nutrition intervention programs.
doi:10.3390/ijerph8093637
PMCID: PMC3194109  PMID: 22016708
Arab countries; nutrition problems; undernutrition; diet-related chronic non-communicable disease
16.  Convergent Validity of the Arab Teens Lifestyle Study (ATLS) Physical Activity Questionnaire 
The Arab Teens Lifestyle Study (ATLS) is a multicenter project for assessing the lifestyle habits of Arab adolescents. This study reports on the convergent validity of the physical activity questionnaire used in ATLS against an electronic pedometer. Participants were 39 males and 36 females randomly selected from secondary schools, with a mean age of 16.1 ± 1.1 years. ATLS self-reported questionnaire was validated against the electronic pedometer for three consecutive weekdays. Mean steps counts were 6,866 ± 3,854 steps/day with no significant gender difference observed. Questionnaire results showed no significant gender differences in time spent on total or moderate-intensity activities. However, males spent significantly more time than females on vigorous-intensity activity. The correlation of steps counts with total time spent on all activities by the questionnaire was 0.369. Relationship of steps counts was higher with vigorous-intensity (r = 0.338) than with moderate-intensity activity (r = 0.265). Pedometer steps counts showed higher correlations with time spent on walking (r = 0.350) and jogging (r = 0.383) than with the time spent on other activities. Active participants, based on pedometer assessment, were also most active by the questionnaire. It appears that ATLS questionnaire is a valid instrument for assessing habitual physical activity among Arab adolescents.
doi:10.3390/ijerph8093810
PMCID: PMC3194119  PMID: 22016718
Arab Teens Lifestyle Study; validity; questionnaire; pedometer

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