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An overview of genes, obesity, and diabetes

H.E. Dr Maryam Matar, MD, PhD

By H.E. Dr Maryam Matar, MD, PhD

Her Excellency, Dr Matar is the Founder and Chairperson, UAE Genetic Diseases Association. She is a leading healthcare influencer, and pioneered the study of genes and advocates public education and awareness of genetic disorders across the ME region. She serves as a Chairperson/senior advisor in over 15 international, regional and local committees for preventive healthcare initiatives, women in STEM, and youth leadership. Dr Mater has been recognised as the most powerful scientist in the UAE since 2014; amongst the top 20 Arab scientists with the biggest contribution to humanity by British Scientific Community 2016; amongst the “top 100 most influential Arabs in the world” recognised by Arabian Business for four consecutive years since 2013.

Obesity results from a chronic surplus of energy intake compared to energy expenditure, which leads to storage of excessive amounts of triglycerides in adipose tissue.

BMI Body Mass IndexBody mass index (BMI) is commonly used as a surrogate measure of overall obesity. The World Health Organization advises that to achieve optimum health, the median body mass index for an adult population should be in the range of 21 to 23 kg/m2, while the goal for individuals should be to maintain body mass index in the range 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2.

Excess weight can raise risk for type 2 and gestational diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. But maintaining weight is difficult for many people. Body weight reflects the balance between the amount of energy consumed and the amount the body uses. But the body’s metabolism can change with lifestyle, age and habits.

Lifestyle and prevention of diabetes

According to a local expert in the UAE, Dr Maha Taysir Barakat, it is also important to note that up to 58 percent of type 2 diabetes could have been prevented by a change in lifestyle, such as including a 30-minute brisk walk each day and eating healthily. However, the studies have shown that less than 20% of adults meet the 30 minutes per day physical activity standard in Abu Dhabi, and only 27% of children meet the 60 minutes per day physical activity standard.The International Diabetes Federation estimates number of people worldwide with diabetes is expected to grow to 642 million in 2040.

Obesity, genetics, and epigenetics

Metabolism changes may differ significantly among people, depending on genetics, age, and other factors. Recent evidence also suggests that gut microbes play a role in obesity.

How can genes influence obesity?

Genes give the body instructions for responding to changes in its environment. Studies of resemblances and differences among family members, twins, and adoptees offer indirect scientific evidence that a sizable portion of the variation in weight among adults is due to genetic factors.

Tips to maintain an active lifestyle and optimal weight

Healthy living to prevent obesity and diabetes Moderate exercise for up to 30 minutes a day.
• Well balanced meals.
• Enough hydration. Which means a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water every day.
• Regulate the amount of sugar and fatty food intake.

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