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Public Health Nutrition in the Middle East

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Nutrition intervention has been neglected in public health strategies in many countries of the Middle East which have been witnessing the highest prevalence of nutrition-related Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the world, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain types of cancer. The latter may ...

Nutrition intervention has been neglected in public health strategies in many countries of the Middle East which have been witnessing the highest prevalence of nutrition-related Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the world, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain types of cancer. The latter may be partly attributed to a state of nutrition transition as a result of rapid urbanization and modernization, characterized by a shift in dietary patterns from a traditional to a westernized diet. Behavioral risk factors for NCDs such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity are also prevalent.

In addition to overnutrition, the region suffers from a double burden of disease with high prevalence of childhood malnutrition depicted by a co-existence of both stunting and obesity among preschoolers in several countries. Both epidemics constitute a major public health concern in the region. Childhood obesity and undernutrition could also be the result of faulty nutrition practices in early life, whereby evidence has shown that current breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices in the Middle East fall below global recommendations.

In parallel, malnutrition in most countries of the Middle East is coupled with poverty and food insecurity which, all together, constitute an interrelated phenomena of a vicious cycle that threatens the region not only from an economic aspect, but also from a public health perspective.

Public health efforts should be directed towards formulating policies and implementing strategies that promote culture-specific and healthy dietary habits in order to curb the positive progression of nutrition-related NCDs in countries of the Middle East where similar dietary and lifestyle patterns prevails.


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