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Ramadan Ends, and Now They Nag About Dessert?

• August 08, 2013 • 9:54 AM

A crescent moon can be seen over palm trees at sunset in Manama, marking the beginning of the Islamic month of Ramadan in Bahrain. (PHOTO: AHMED RABEA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

A newspaper in the emirates suggests breaking bad dietary habits along with the fast.

The National takes the opportunity of today’s Eid-al-Fitr holiday—marking the end of Ramadan, and its daytime fast for observant Muslims—to note that it might be time for some dietary changes in many communities that observe the holiday:

Type 2 diabetes, which is primarily caused by poor diet and insufficient exercise, is a particular scourge in this part of the world. One recent YouGov study compiled for The National showed that half of Emirati families have a history of the disease. As part of the Weqaya initiative [a preventative health effort in the UAE], our Arabic-language sister newspaper, Al Ittihad, distributed tape measures so readers could measure their waistlines and assess their risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes.

The newspaper editorializes (full text here) that the end of the holiday fast would be a good time for its readers to assess their sweet tooth and their couch time. But it’s a tough case to crack. To pick a U.S. parallel, it’s no shock that gym membership tends to spike after Christmas feasts, only to fall by Easter. Still, every region has its health scourge, and in the Middle East it’s blood sugar. The International Diabetes Foundation notes that, as of 2012, of the 10 nations with the highest rates of diabetes in the world, six are in the Middle East and North Africa. Those are Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt is also listed high up, along with Libya. Ten percent of adult deaths in the region were attributed to the disease in 2011, according to the same association:

In 2011, 32.8 million people or 9.1% of the adult population have diabetes. This number will almost double to 60 million in less than 20 years. The explosion of diabetes in the region is mainly due to type 2 diabetes. The prevalence (%) in the region for younger age groups is substantially higher than the global average. A further 24 million people, or 6.7% of the population, are at high risk of diabetes from impaired glucose tolerance (IGT). This number is expected to nearly double by 2030 as well.

If those statistics get into the conversation around the table today, one can imagine a chastened uncle saying no to a second Gazelle’s Horn. But it’s also easy to imagine, like the gym memberships, that the same uncle could scarf down three at a go in a couple of weeks, when no one’s looking. So points for trying to The National. But it’s a party two billion people will be having today, after all.

(Also, it’s good pastry, if you haven’t had the pleasure. Below, video of some French tourists happily getting their blood sugar spiked at a bakery in far southern Tunisia, which specializes in the aforementioned Gazelle’s Horns, which are one of a few things a person might well fill up on today. The filling you see is a mix of nuts, dates and palm sugar, and the outside is covered in honey. It’s sugar mixed with slightly different sugar, wrapped in more sugar. Funnel Cake is for amateurs.)

Marc Herman
Marc Herman is a writer in Barcelona. He is the author of The Shores of Tripoli.

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