Posted on February 21, 2018

Obesity, a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, is being treated at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) National Obesity Treatment Center through a unique bariatric and weight management service. The Center, which is part of the Qatar Metabolic Institute (QMI), is caring for those who have the highest risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or other related conditions. 

Type 2 diabetes is a complex metabolic disease characterized by insulin resistance and progressive failure of pancreatic beta cells, resulting in hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). It is a chronic condition that affects the way sugar (glucose) is metabolized and develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin, or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin.

According to Dr. Monica Skarulis, Director of the National Obesity Treatment Center, if obesity is treated and the affected individual is able to reduce his or her weight to a healthier range, the progression to Type 2 diabetes can be slowed or even stopped. “Research conducted in many countries, including the USA, UK, Finland, and China, tells us that treating obesity and getting people to a healthy weight range can prevent a number of chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes. Our mission at the National Obesity Treatment Center is to find those people who fall into the obese category and motivate them to lose between five to seven percent of their body weight in order to prevent diabetes.”

“Most people with diabetes are overweight or obese. Some research estimates that obesity increases one’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by well over 50 percent – which makes it a major risk factor that can be influenced, unlike risk factors that cannot, such as family history, age, and ethnicity. While the development of Type 2 diabetes depends on a combination of risk factors, lifestyle changes around eating, physical activity, and weight loss can significantly reduce one’s risk of developing the disease,” explains Dr. Skarulis.

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Close to 60 percent of Qatar’s population below the age of 30 years is thought to be obese, with more than 70 percent of the population considered overweight or obese. This underscores the importance of providing effective and compassionate care for the prevention of weight-related diseases. “Since weight-related diseases are so common amongst our population, we need to focus on those with the highest risk of metabolic complications.  An important indicator of that risk is a high body mass index (BMI), which takes into account the height and weight of the individual; however, it is important to note that among patients with a high BMI there are metabolically healthy and metabolically unhealthy individuals,” she clarifies. 

Mr. Mubarak Ghadeer Al Khalil, a patient of the National Obesity Treatment Center who was identified as being at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes due to his weight is currently undergoing treatment at the facility and has lost 21 kilograms. In addition to reducing his weight, he has been able to control his blood sugar levels by following a ten-month weight management program.

“I have a family history of diabetes so in early 2017 I was evaluated and advised to have bariatric surgery. I weighed 124 kilograms and my blood sugar was above normal levels. I declined the option of surgery and began receiving treatment as part of the medical weight management program at the Qatar Metabolic Institute. Together we agreed on a weight management plan that included diet modifications, daily physical activity, and some medication. I have now lost more than 20 kilograms and my blood glucose profile is normal. I am no longer at risk of Type 2 diabetes. Today I am healthy and active. I feel like a different person – thanks to the team at QMI,” said Mr. Al Khalil.

Dr. Mohamed El Sherif, a Bariatric Endocrinologist at QMI explains that Mr. Al Khalil’s case underscores that obesity promotes diabetes and weight loss can counteract it. He said: “Diabetes is often easier to control after weight loss and in some patients, considerable weight loss can even lead to normalization of blood sugar. Thirty minutes of aerobic physical activity five days per week is an essential part of any weight loss program. At QMI, we offer a wide range of tailored weight loss programs that are designed to help patients lose weight and get their diabetes under control. When this happens, everybody is happy.”

Located in building 311 in Hamad Bin Khalifa Medical City, the National Obesity Treatment Center is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of bariatric physicians, endocrinologists, dietitians, physiotherapists, and nurses who coordinate care and develop personalized plans for each patient.