Posted on April 29, 2014

Health experts in Qatar shed new light on the scientific challenges of tackling obesity at the latest TECHtalk hosted by Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), part of Qatar Foundation Research and Development (QF R&D). The TECHtalks series is a sought-after knowledge forum for local entrepreneurs in the health, ICT, energy and environmental sectors.

Experts gave a solutions-oriented overview of obesity – from its economic costs to an in-depth introduction to “adipokines” - a chemical in the body thought to link obesity to other diseases. 

Dr Vidya Mohamed-Ali, Director of the Life Sciences Research Division, Anti-Doping Lab Qatar, was the guest speaker of the session. Vidya currently serves on the committee of the UK Association of the Study of Obesity, and is also member of the American Endocrine Society and Diabetes Association.  She began the session by giving a general definition of obesity and went on to discuss the major causes and factors driving the growth of obesity the globally and different approaches to reducing obesity rates.

A panel of local thought leaders and accomplished academics from the medical field shared their latest research and insight into cutting-edge technologies to combat this regionally-prevalent medical condition. The panel included; Dr Mahmoud Zirie; Senior Consultant, Endocrine and Diabetes Division Head in Hamad General Hospital, Doha; Dr. Marco Cardinale, Head of Sports Physiology of Aspire Academy in Doha; and Dr Davit Sargsyan; Doctor and Co-founder of the Bariatric service in Hamad Medical Corporation.

“Obesity is the most prevalent nutritional disorder in industrialized countries and a developing problem in the developing world. There are substantial economic costs that are related to treating obesity- associated pathologies, and aside from those costs, there will be other draining costs on economies. Globally, we need to work closer and harder on raising awareness in our schools and our work places.” Dr Vidya added.

An audience of industry specialists, researchers and students engaged the panel experts in an active question and answer session, focusing on immediate, science-based solutions to help overcome this problem locally and regionally.

“The fight against obesity and diabetes is challenging and will take time, but if we all work together, educational institutions, community, work places, and the government, we can make a change. Living a healthy lifestyle, increasing physical activity, and eating proper and quality food are all key levers to decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and comorbidity.  Pharmacology and surgery are significant solutions but they can only be adopted if a healthy lifestyle is not sufficient enough to cure obesity,” added Dr Mahmoud Zirie.

Qatar Science & Technology Park 2 [].jpg“We need to work together and define new ways where our community can acquire healthier habits and live a more active lifestyle. Qatar provides excellent facilities for children but the key thing is to make sure our children are well aware on the wide variety of opportunities they have set in place for them. Work places also play a major role in encouraging a culture of fitness. Even seemingly small measures, like providing healthy choices at the company cafeteria, can have major impacts on the health of employees,”added Dr Marco Cardinale.

Dr Davit Sargsyan also gave an interesting talk on bariatric surgery. “Batriatric surgery appears to have long term positive effects not only on obesity but also on diabetes and hypertension.  This type of surgery must be considered only in severe cases of obesity and when the patient doesn’t show any response to the other available treatments."

Panellists agreed on a core set of key recommendations to tackle this issue, stressing the fact that Qatar’s main focus now is to encourage the community to be as active as possible, and getting them to live healthier lifestyles.

Having brought top industry figures from Qatar’s health care, telecommunications, energy and transportation sectors to QSTP, TECHtalks continue to be a sought-after forum for knowledge-transfer to technology focused entrepreneurs, SMEs and health professionals. The series will take place regularly, addressing a number of topics and challenges that face the local community.