In an effort to develop a nationwide food policy, Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has rolled out the Gulf’s first nutrition guide this week.
The Qatar Dietary Guide, which hasn’t yet been made publicly available, contains basic nutrition and fitness guidelines that complement the QR50 million ($13.7 million) national nutrition and physical activity plan launched by the SCH in 2011.
But for the first time, the advice will now be applied on a public policy level to help get Qatar’s residents on healthier footing, officials said.
Speaking at this week’s launch conference, Sheikha Dr. al-Anoud al-Thani, manager of health promotion and non-communicable diseases at SCH, said, as quoted by the Gulf Times:
“The guidelines will be used in marketing of foods and beverages, breastfeeding, nutrition labeling, school meals or snacks guidelines, imports, rations, workplace wellness as well as food industry.”
She added that a national food consumption survey would be conducted to assess the implementation of guidelines, which will also be used to regulate the production of bakeries, so that their products include less salt.
Dr. Tawfiq bin Ahmed Khoja, director general of the GCC Health Minister’s Council, said:
“Bakeries also have been provided health guidelines while preparing several food items resulting in reduction of sodium and salt in bread. Another effort has enabled in reducing the fat content in milk. All this will contribute to improve the health of the people of the country.”
Another idea to boost nutrition awareness in Qatar that has been previously discussed was to require all eating establishments in Qatar to display the ingredients and calorie content of their meals.
But a timeline for implementation on that move remains unclear.
Public Health Minister Abdullah bin Khaled Al Qahtani previously said that the ministry was also working with the Supreme Education Council (SEC) to ensure that school canteens only sell healthy food, aimed at trying to stem the growing problem of childhood obesity in the country.
One of the guidelines’ main aims is to reduce the risks of non-communicable diseases, which are one of the main causes of death in the world, according to Dr. Mohammad Bin Hamad Al Thani, the SCH’s director general of public health.
Speaking at this week’s conference, he said more than 34 percent of deaths in Qatar in 2013 could be attributed to non-communicable diseases, such as vascular heart diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, according to QNA.
Qatar ranks among the top five countries in world for the highest diabetes rates.
Nearly a quarter of Qatar’s residents suffer from diabetes, which can increase the risk of health complications such as kidney disease and blindness, as well as shortened lifespans.
Obesity is another major problem in Qatar, which is home to one of the world’s largest proportion of overweight adults, according to report issued in 2014.
Al Thani explained that nutrition and lifestyle play an important role in the prevention and treatment of these chronic diseases.
For example, the new guidelines advise residents to consume more fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates, while avoiding food and drinks that are high in salt, sugar and saturated fats.
Drinking a lot of water, getting vitamin D from the sun, and making sure that food is prepared in a safe and hygienic manner are also among the guidelines, according to Al Raya.
The new nutrition guide was composed with the help of several prominent Qatar institutions, including Qatar University, Qatar Foundation, Qatar Diabetes Association, Hamad Medical Corp., Sidra Medical and Research Center, Weil Cornell Medical College and the Qatar National Food Security Program.
More objectives and health tips can be found on the guideline’s Instagram account. Thoughts?