A heap of biscuits and sweetsOverweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. The body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres (kg/m2). A person with a BMI of 25 or more is considered by WHO to be overweight, while obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more. Overweight and obesity are potent risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes and are major contributors to premature deaths.

These metabolic disorders are dramatically increasing among adults in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Data for adults aged 15 years and older from 16 countries in the Region show the highest levels of overweight and obesity in Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in these countries ranges from 74% to 86% in women and 69% to 77% in men. These data indicate a much higher prevalence of obesity among adult women, while overweight is more marked among adult men. Escalating levels of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents is of particular concern given recent evidence linking childhood and adolescent obesity to increased risk of obesity and morbidity in adulthood.