Here's one reason the Middle East is so unstable: In most Arab countries, it's feast or famine. Between 15% and 25% of Arab children under 5 are too short for their age and between 5% and 15% are underweight. Almost half of pregnant Egyptian women are anemic, due to an iron deficiency often caused by poor diets. In contrast, a 2006 survey revealed that 30% of Egyptian adults were obese. Obesity estimates for Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were between 35% and 45%.
The Economist reports that, "The most obvious explanation for this paradox is that the two problems exist in separate realms: obesity among the well-to-do, under-nutrition among the poor. Yet this is not the whole story. Obesity and malnutrition exist not only in the same country but within the same community, the same household and even, strange as it may seem, in the same person." They are simultaneously over- and underfed: too many calories, not enough micronutrients.
According to the Economist, " It is largely because of the way the body reacts to changing diets. If a woman is severely malnourished in the womb or during her first two years of life, her metabolism will change permanently. She will store spare calories as fat--an insurance against future hard times. If 20 years later the family gets a more plentiful yet still poor diet (with a lot of calories but not many micronutrients, such as iron or vitamins) she will become overweight or obese, while her children will suffer nutritional deficiency, such as anemia or blindness. They will be undernourished and she will be obese."
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