Nation-wide study to find root causes of diabetes

Nation-wide study to find root causes of diabetes

The purpose of the study is to understand why obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are common in the UAE

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Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Sun 19 Feb 2017, 4:33 PM

Last updated: Sun 19 Feb 2017, 6:53 PM

A national-wide long-term study involving thousands of UAE nationals has been initiated in Abu Dhabi to find the root causes of diabetes and ways to protect the young generation from the disease.

New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) on Sunday announced the launch of the 'UAE Healthy Future Study. It is the first of its kind. The purpose of the study is to understand why obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are common in the UAE.

Researchers are looking forward to recruiting 20,000 UAE nationals between the ages of 18-40 to take part in the study that will be conducted by experts from NYUAD in collaboration with the NYU Langone Medical Center.

Officials said the UAE Healthy Future Study will enable a range of specialised physicians and scientists to understand the root cause of some of the nation's most pressing questions on public health today.

The study will also seek to determine how the population of the UAE has come to have one of the highest rates of lifestyle diseases including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, in the world.

The International Diabetes Federation estimates that, in 2015, there were 1,086,300 people with diabetes in the UAE, compared with 803,940 in 2014.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about 34.5 per cent of Emiratis are obese and 70.6 per cent are overweight.

Experts attributed the high numbers of obesity and diabetes cases in the country to poor lifestyle including lack of exercise and unhealthy diets.

Brigadier Dr. Abdulla Al Naeemi, Head of Medical Department, Consultant Cardiologist, Zayed Military Hospital said,"The latest figures on the number of diabetics in the UAE are so shocking and that's why we have come up with this national study to find the root causes of the disease and also put in place measures that will help prevent the disease especially among the young generation.The findings of this study will help us ensure that future generations of our country lead healthy and long lives."

"This is an important initiative and one that has the potential to build a healthy future for the society."

According to Al Naeemi, despite the UAE being among the countries with the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in the world, no studies have been done in the country or the region which could give reliable answers as to why these diseases are so common.

"Now, for the first time in the UAE, investigators from the leading universities and hospitals in the UAE have come together to find out and understand why these diseases are so common by setting up the UAE Healthy Future Study," he said.

Principal Investigator of the UAE Healthy Future Study and Director of the Public Health Research Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, Dr. Raghib Ali said: "The UAE Healthy Future Study is a medical research study which seeks to determine how the health of 20,000 UAE national men and women, currently aged 18 to 40 is affected by their lifestyle, environment and genes."

"To answer these questions reliably we need long-term studies which follow thousands of people over many years to see how their lifestyle and environment affects the risk of developing these diseases. These are called cohort studies."

Ali noted that based on the potential outcomes of the national study, they will work towards finding ways to prevent these diseases in the future.
"The study is targeting the youths because we want to ensure that they don't develop the diseases when they become aged," he said. He explained that initial findings of the study will be published in 2019.

Emiratis interested in participating in the study can join by registering at the study assessment centers in Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi Blood Bank) and Al Ain (Al Ain Regional Blood Bank).

Once participants have agreed to come on board they will be asked to complete a questionnaire, provide body measurements and samples of blood, urine, and saliva.

Participants will then be observed over several years with follow-up online questionnaires and clinic visits in order to understand how important risk factors such as lifestyle, genes and environment are causing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Although the findings of this research may not benefit the participant directly, according to authorities, the study will show how peoples' lifestyles, genes and environment affect the health of the people of the UAE and should give future generations a better chance to live a long life, free of disease and disability.

The study will also be used as a national resource for the UAE, enabling researchers and policy makers to help.


>1,086,300 people with diabetes in the UAE, compared with 803,940 in 2014, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

> World Health Organization (WHO) figures shows diabetes accounted for 3 per cent of all deaths in the UAE.

> WHO also estimates that about 34.5 per cent of Emiratis are obese and 70.6 per cent are overweight.

>3 to 4 percent of UAE people aged 18 to 40 are diabetic.

> In 2015, the cost per person in the UAE with diabetes with US$2,155.90 (Dh7,908), while in 2014, the cost per person was $1,967.40 (Dh7,209).

> In 2014, 1,335 people lost their lives to diabetes in UAE while in 2015, there were 1,384 deaths due to diabetes.

> Statistics published by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi in 2014 showed 14 per cent of pupils across the emirate's schools were overweight, while 15 per cent of them suffered from obesity.

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