Study shows half of SQU students overweight, obese

Muscat - 

Obesity is fast growing into an epidemic in Oman with a large proportion of young people found to be overweight. According to a recent study titled 'Trends of obesity and overweight among college students in Oman', nearly 49 per cent of students in the study sample were found to be overweight.

According to the study which was conducted amongst 202 Omani students (101 men and 101 women), from five colleges at SQU, the majority of women students were healthy, while male students were found to be significantly more overweight and obese compared to their women counterparts. The study stressed on using the relatively newer and more accurate, total body fat (TBF) method.

Professor Hashem Adnan Hilmi Kilani, department of physical education, College of Education, SQU, who co-authored the study with Mostafa Waly and Randa Yousef, told Muscat Daily that the TBF method is preferred because it is more accurate than the popular BMI method.

He said that the BMI method could give the wrong figures in some people. For example, the BMI method would wrongly classify athletes as overweight because they have a higher BMI than normal people due to their heavier muscles and bones.

Similarly, a normal person who is lean could at times have a high percentage of body fat especially hidden abdominal fat, which may not show up using the BMI method where a higher score indicates being overweight or obese.

In case of the SQU study, only 28.2 per cent of the students were found to be overweight or obese using the BMI method. In contrast, based on the TBF method, over 49 per cent of the students were diagnosed as having high or very high body fat levels, with only 33 per cent of the students having normal body fat scores (BFS).

In the TBF method, body fat was calculated using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). It is considered a very reliable method of screening body fat. In this method, a person's age, gender and height are taken into account and as the person steps on a BIA machine barefoot, electrodes in the foot sensor pads send a safe low voltage signal through the body.

BIA measures the resistance to the signal as it travels through the water that is found in muscle and fat. The more muscle a person has, the more water his body has. The greater the amount of water in the body, the easier it is for the current to pass through it. In contrast to this, more the fat, more the resistance to the current.

The majority of women students were found to be within the ideal weight range while more men were overweight in comparison even though a large number of the men said they exercised regularly.

Knowledge of nutrition, however, was found to be poor (below 60 per cent) among all the students surveyed, regardless of body fat. This, combined with the propensity to have more than the ideal body weight, is a growing problem in Oman.

According to Kilani, there is a direct relationship between adolescent weight and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. “If the problem is not managed, it will lead to an increased incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiac ailments in this high-risk group of the Omani population.”

Interesting facts

-      Study based on body fat percentage which is considered a better indicator than BMI method.

-      49 per cent of SQU students are overweight or obese

-          Essential fat level in a human being is 10-13 per cent in the case of women and 2-5 per cent in case of men. The maximum acceptable percentage of body fat is 25-31 per cent for women and 18-24 per cent in case of men. People whose fat levels are above these are considered overweight or obese.

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