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As a Collaboration between the University of Sharjah and UAE University A Study in the MENA Region Examining the Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Nutritional Habits and Lifestyles

​25 May 2020

A research team from the University of Sharjah and the UAE University conducted a scientific study on the effect of the emerging coronavirus on nutritional habits, physical activity and lifestyles of the population of the Middle East and North Africa and the United Arab Emirates. The research team from the College of Health Sciences at the University of Sharjah was led by Dr. Laila Sheikh Ismail, Dr. Amina Al Marzouqi and Dr. Tariq Al-Osaili, and the research team from the UAE University was led by Dr. Aisha Al Dhaheri.

The research team also included Dr. Riyad Obaid; Dr. Haider Hassan; Dr. Mona Hashem; Dr. Maysam Muhammad; Shaima Saleh, Research Assistant from the University of Sharjah; Dr. Carla Habib from the American University of Beirut; and Dr. Samar Al-Fiqi from the World Health Organization. In addition to a few researchers from several universities and scientific institutes in the Middle East and North Africa. The study sample included 2970 people from several Arab countries, namely the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. The research was based on an electronic form that was published on social media, in addition to another study on the UAE, which involved 1012 adults.

The study, which spanned over two weeks, dealt with identifying the effect of the spread of coronavirus on both eating habits, physical activity, sleep, and stress. This study reached a set of results, the most important of which is that the emerging coronavirus has caused serious threats to the health and lives of individuals worldwide, especially with regard to weight gain and the high number of meals consumed every day. The virus also caused lifestyle changes, contributed to a lack of physical activity and many psychological problems resulting from feelings of stress and irregular sleep hours. The study also recommends the necessity of providing health, nutritional and psychological consultations during the pandemic's spread through remote medicine techniques to support the groups in need. The results also confirm the necessity of conducting future research to assess the impact of the emerging coronavirus pandemic on other aspects of life, especially mental health not only for infected people, but also for the general population who have been staying home for a long period of time.

For her part, Dr. Amina Al Marzouqi, Acting Dean of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Sharjah, stressed the importance of conducting this type of research in order to raise the level of scientific research, as this research may contribute to understanding the causes and effects associated with this pandemic on people in particular and the region in general. It will also have a positive return on building strategies for protection, treatment and non-proliferation through health and nutritional education based on scientific grounds, to be adopted by the countries and relevant institutions in the region. The research findings of this study will be highlighted by publishing it in the international scientific journals, which will contribute to the progress of the University of Sharjah and the participating universities at the regional and global levels.

Dr. Leila Sheikh Ismail, head of the research team from the University of Sharjah, also pointed out the importance of the results of the research in activating the mechanisms of preparing and responding to emergencies to reduce the risks of the disease and how to deal with it. The study stressed the need to increase societal awareness about healthy eating habits, public safety measures, the importance of physical activity, and mechanisms for relieving stress.

Dr. Aisha Al Dhaheri, head of the research team from the UAE University, recommended that based on the results of the study, it is necessary to build reliable electronic platforms to provide health consultations to individuals on how to take care of their health, nutrition, and to observe the health standards in their lifestyles.

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