Dietary and activity habits in adolescents living in the United Arab Emirates: A Cross-sectional Study
Arab Journal of Nutrition and Exercise, Vol. 1, No. 2
Published on 20th August 2016
Background: The Global School Health Survey 2010 reported that 40% of pupils aged 12-15 years are overweight or obese; double what was reported in 2005. Following such concerns the government introduced mandatory school health education sessions to students, and produced strict guidelines on school food and drink provision (September 2011). The aim of this survey was to obtain information about adolescents’ dietary and activity habits, and their association with the increased prevalence of obesity.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 1,022 students (539 boys; 483 girls) aged 12-16 years, from 17 government schools in Dubai, UAE. Dietary practices and physical activity was collected using a short self-completed questionnaire.
Results: Non-Emirati pupils, especially the girls appear to eat more healthily than their Emirati counterparts. Overall, 16% of students reported never eating breakfast, 31% reported drinking sugar sweetened beverages everyday 18% said they never drank milk and 15% never ate fruits. 67% reported buying food from school every day; Emiratis spending more than non-Emiratis. 37% of pupils reported exercising or playing sport daily, whereas 60% reported they daily watch more than 2 hours of TV.
Conclusion: Despite the recent changes in school policies, pupils are still failing to eat a healthy diet and engage in physical activity. There needs to be further interventions promoting changes in lifestyle amongst adolescents, and enhancing provision of healthy food in schools to be more appealing to students.
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