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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 8  |  Page : 2998-3004

Adolescent eating behaviors in the UAE: Time to intervene

1 Consultant Nephrologist Al Ain Hospital Al Ain, Al Ain, UAE
2 Endocrinologist & Acting Dean College of Medicine and Health Sciences, UAE University, Al Ain, UAE
3 Director Medical Research Tawam Hospital Al Ain, Al Ain, UAE
4 Associate Director, Public Health Research Center NY University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE
5 Gastroenterologist & Chair Department of Internal Medicine, Tawam Hospital Al Ain, Al Ain, UAE
6 Endocrinologist & Head of Department of Medicine Al Ain Hospital Al Ain, Al Ain, UAE
7 General Internist & Diabetologist Tawam Hospital Al Ain, Al Ain, UAE
8 Endocrinologist Tawam Hopsital, Al Ain, UAE
9 Professor & Chairperson Pharmacology, Associate Dean RAKMHSU, Al Ain, UAE
10 Professor of Medicine, Ras Al Khaima Medicine and Health Sciences University (RAKMHSU), Al Ain, UAE
11 Family Medicine Specialist Al Ain Hospital, Al Ain, UAE
12 Family Medicine Specialist Ambulatory Health Services, Al Ain, UAE
13 Chiropractor & Author of Eatology Inspired Results, Abu Dhabi, UAE
14 Bachelor in Clinical Dietetics, Clinical Dietician Al Ain Hospital, Al Ain, UAE
15 Pharm D, Senior Clinical Pharmacist, Transformation Project Manager, Abu Dhabi Health Services Co. (SEHA), Abu Dhabi, UAE, UAE
16 MSc Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA and medical student Khalifa University for Science, Technology & Research, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Samra Abouchacra
Consultant Nephrologist Al Ain Hospital, Shakhboot Ibn Sultan Street, P.O. Box: 1006
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_267_21

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Background: Obesity is the single most burdensome lifestyle disease, which has reached epidemic proportions. This study aimed to examine the eating behavior patterns and beliefs in a group of adolescents living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Procedure: A questionnaire was administered to adolescents (aged 11 and 18 years) attending outpatients' clinics at governmental health facilities. Informed consent was obtained, and the questionnaire was available in English or Arabic languages. Results: In all, 36 adolescent subjects participated in our study with 12 males and 24 females. UAE nationals constituted 72% of our participants and 28% were of other ethnic backgrounds; 75% were overweight to obese with 17% normal and 8% underweight. The majority of patients were healthy with only 6 patients suffering chronic medical diseases. We uncovered that in less than half of our cohort, the decision to eat came directly from the individuals themselves, but it was more influenced by their families. Food consumption was largely in response to physical hunger with the sensation perceived in the upper abdomen by one-third and the remainder localizing it to various other areas. Excessive caloric intake with frequent meals and snacks was also reported. Our study subjects decided what to consume mainly based on what appeared appetizing, followed by availability and cravings and to a lesser extent based on health recommendations. Excessive speed of food ingestion was self-reported in the majority of participants. Moreover, almost half of the adolescents were unable to turn down food offerings from their close family members and over one-fourth were unable to refuse food from other persons. Common symptoms reported included dysphoric mood, disordered sleep, decreased energy and concentration difficulties as well as low self-esteem. Conclusion: Our study uncovered certain eating behaviors in the cohort of adolescents, which may be important in promoting weight gain. These included misconceived hunger signals, excessive frequency, amount and speed of food consumption as well as more focus on food taste, inattentiveness to cravings and a strong social influence on food intake decisions. The findings of our study aim to shed some light on the eating patterns among adolescents and encourage research to investigate eating behaviors on an expanded scale evaluating ethnic, gender and age-related differences.

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