Prevalence, risk factors, and interventions for obesity in Saudi Arabia: A systematic review

Obes Rev. 2022 Jul;23(7):e13448. doi: 10.1111/obr.13448. Epub 2022 Mar 26.


Saudi Arabia (SA) has a reported obesity prevalence greater than the global average. Here, we systematically review firstly the prevalence and associated factors (59 studies) and secondly the pharmacological, lifestyle, and surgical interventions for obesity (body mass index, >30 kg/m2 ) in SA (29 studies) between December 2020 and March 2021 in PubMed, Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and Cochrane. Peer-reviewed articles in Arabic and English on human adults (aged >18 years) were searched. Among the eight largest studies with sample sizes over 10,000 people, the maximum-reported obesity prevalence was 35.6%, with notable variations in gender and geographic region. Diet, specifically the move towards Western diet and heavy consumption of sugary beverages, and high levels of inactivity are major contributing factors to obesity. The reported obesity-risk polymorphisms are not specific. Bariatric surgery is underrepresented, and in general, there is a lack of nationally coordinated studies on weight loss interventions. In particular, the systematic review did not find a body of research on psychological interventions. There is no trial data for the use of GLP-1 analogs in SA, despite their widespread use. These findings can help policymakers, and practitioners prioritize future research efforts to reduce obesity prevalence in SA.

Keywords: Saudi Arabia; bariatric surgery; body weight loss; lifestyle interventions; obesity; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Obesity* / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Sedentary Behavior*