Emirati genes could be more prone to diabetes, and a genetic and molecular research can offer breakthrough insight into the high-prevalence of lifestyle disease among the local population, a leading researcher said here on Tuesday.
“If you ask me whether ethnicity and genes play a role, I think, yes. Maybe, there is something in the Emirati genes that makes them more prone to diabetes,” Prof Nabil Sulaiman, head of department of family and community medicine and behavioural science at Sharjah University, told Khaleej Times.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Congress 2017 being held in Abu Dhabi, where Sulaiman presented the results of the latest UAE Diabetes and Lifestyle Survey.
The four-day event held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, brings together more than 200 speakers and 230 diabetes associations from 170 countries.
Details of the study
Elaborating on the results of the survey, Sulaiman, who is the chief researcher, said 21.3 per cent of Emirati adults and 19.1 per cent expatriates between the age group 20 and 79, are found to be diabetic.
The most recent cross-sectional survey examined 4,200 samples from both expatriates and Emiratis.
“The study indicates Emiratis are at higher risk of diabetes than expatriates. In phase 3 of the study, genetic and molecular analysis of the samples will be done to understand how much of influence the Emirati genes have on the prevalence of diabetes,” said Sulaiman.
As per the survey that covered all ethnicities in the UAE, Emiratis topped in diabetes prevalence with 21.3 per cent, followed by Asians at 16.4 per cent, Arabs 15.2 per cent and African/Westerners at 11.9 per cent.
The prevalence rate is significantly associated with age, body mass index, family history, triglycerides and snoring.
According to the IDF 2017 Atlas, the total prevalence rate of diabetes among adults in the age group 20 to 79, is 17.3 per cent. The UAE stands third with Egypt’s 18.8 per cent population and Saudi’s 17.7 per cent diagnosed with diabetes.
Sulaiman said though the prevalence rates in the UAE has not increased considerably in the last five years, “a huge percentage of the population could be undiagnosed.
“Our estimate is for every person diagnosed with diabetes in the UAE, there are more than one undiagnosed case.”
The impact of the prevalence of diabetes and its crippling effect on countries and people were discussed and solutions sought at the International Diabetes Federation 2017, being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (Adnec).
The diabetes conference was officially launched on Tuesday in the presence of Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, who attended the opening ceremony at Adnec.