Saudi Arabia launches weight loss competition

A 610kg Saudi citizen was moved to hospital on a fork lift truck in 2013 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A 610kg (96 stone) Saudi citizen was moved to hospital on a fork lift truck in 2013

Prizes are being offered to dieters as Saudi Arabia launches a nationwide weight loss competition in an attempt to tackle the country's standing as one of the world's most overweight nations.

The competition is part of a national programme called "Obesity: The Silent Ghost", in which obese people will be encouraged to lose weight through direct support, incentives and free medication, the Saudi Gazette newspaper reports. However, the biggest incentive is the offer of unspecified prizes in a "biggest loser" style contest open to both Saudi citizens and expats.

The chairman of the initiative, Prince Abdul Rahman Bin Faisal, says that initial prizes will be offered through a TV programme to encourage people to sign up. After that, 1,000 participants will be assigned to 50 hospitals and health centres in groups of 20, and they will be gradually whittled down to one based on how much weight they lose. Organisers aren't shy about calling it a competition, and say those who have shed the most weight after six months will win prizes. The best-performing clinics will also be rewarded, Saudi Gazette says.

According to the Jeddah-based Arab News, hospitals have witnessed a surge in obesity cases over the past 10 years, and the city's King Fahd General Hospital has 1,500 patients on a waiting list for weight loss surgery. While the Pacific Kingdom of Tonga holds the unwanted title of the world's most overweight nation, Saudi Arabia's obesity problem has grown steadily worse, with a World Health Organisation study ranking the Kingdom 14th globally, with 71% of people rated overweight or obese.

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