In Dubai, city of opulence and excess, the obese are worth their (over) weight in gold. In an effort to fight increasing obesity rates, the tiny Emirate has once again outdone the world in flashy extravagance by tantalizing dieters with a one-time offer: a gram of gold for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) lost over the course of a one-month challenge.
The novel weight loss initiative has struck a chord.
"It's a good idea. It will encourage the people. Gold is gold and money is money," laughed a young woman reached by phone at the tourism department. One gram of gold is worth about $41 at current market prices. "People are eating more and more," she added.
That is statistically true all over the Arab Gulf, home to some of the most obese populations in the world, according to a recent United Nations report.
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It rated the percentage of obesity in Kuwait at 42 percent, Saudi Arabia 35 percent, the United Arab Emirates at 33 percent and Qatar at 33 percent. Comparatively, the growing obesity rate in the United States is 35.7 percent.
In recent rankings of obesity worldwide, the UAE, a collection of seven Emirates including Dubai, is among the top 10 countries in the world.
According to a recent World Health Organization study, 30.2 percent of males and 43 percent of women in the UAE are obese.