The Hamad Medical Corporation's Department of Dietetics and Nutrition received more than 2,000 patients last year seeking weight loss support, the HMC said on Saturday.

The department offers a variety of services, including a medically-supervised weight loss programme for patients seeking to achieve a healthier lifestyle and weight.

Dr Yousuf al-Maslamani, medical director at Hamad General Hospital, says many people view weight loss surgery as the solution to obesity but he cautions it isn’t always the best option.

“Obesity is one of the major public health problems facing our population and can leave a person susceptible to cardiovascular and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. More than this, it can severely damage a person's quality of life, physically and emotionally, so it is not difficult to understand why many patients seek out weight loss surgery. However, surgery is not always the best solution and many patients have had success with non-surgical options,” said Dr al-Maslamani.

Bariatric surgery is the term used to refer to a series of weight loss procedures that reduce an individual’s food intake by decreasing the size of their stomach, causing them to lose weight. The procedures have become increasingly popular in recent years but Dr al-Maslamani says lifestyle changes that incorporate healthy eating and physical activity can allow many patients to lose weight without having to resort to surgery. He cited the now-concluded Smart Weight programme as an example.

In 2015, HMC and Qatar University launched the weight management programme, Smart Weight, to reduce the incidence of obesity in Qatar. Noora al-Jaffali, head dietitian at HMC’s Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, said the programme - which was funded by Qatar’s Academic Health System - targeted patients who could benefit from professional weight loss support and advice. She said the main objective was for participants to lose 10% of their body weight over the course of the six-month programme.

“The programme included 500 participants, aged between 18 and 65 years. Group participants all had a body mass index of more than 30. Through simple lifestyle modifications, most programme participants were able to lose more than 10% of their body weight. The overall success rate for the programme was 90%,” said al-Jaffali.

She added that although the programme has now ended, HMC’s Department of Dietetics and Nutrition offers patients an individualised approach to weight loss, which includes medical, nutritional, behavioural and fitness counselling and support. Al-Jaffali said patients are referred to the service from across HMC as well as primary healthcare clinics.

“We hold two clinics per day. Part of our function at the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition is to help patients make dietary and lifestyle changes. Our programmes are calorie-based and follow the Qatar Dietary Guidelines developed by the Ministry of Public Health. In keeping with the guidelines, we focus on nutritional planning and physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. Individual face-to-face counselling is a major part of what we do. To be successful, it is important that each plan is tailored to the needs of each patient and includes reasonable goals, planning for obstacles, and managing stress,” said al-Jaffali.

She added that all patients who seek support from the department undergo a comprehensive evaluation. In addition to examining the patient’s physical health, the role of nutrition and lifestyle modifications as a strategy for weight loss are also discussed.

Zohair Ali al-Arabi, a senior clinical dietitian at HMC, says obesity is a complex problem that the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition is also attempting to address proactively by hosting community-based lectures and awareness events. He says representatives from his department visit local schools, universities, businesses and other organisations throughout

the year and participate in events such as Qatar National Sport Day to raise awareness about the role of nutrition and physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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