Dubai's Weight Loss Campaign Gives Away Solid Gold To Dieting Citizens

It's hardly a secret that obesity is one of the world's leading health problems. Obesity rates have doubled since 1980, and in 2008, more than 10 percent of the world's population was obese. Healthcare and political figures across the globe, perhaps most notably Michelle Obama, have tried to combat its effects. However, the city of Dubai's new weight-loss plan for its citizens will reward people who lose weight with....GOLD. Yes, really — with every kilogram of weight they lose, they receive a gram of the precious metal valued at $42.

The United Arab Emirates is the sixth-most obese nation in the world, according to BMC Public Health Journal, so it's no surprise that Dubai is confronting the problem head-on. Dubai is particularly concerned about obesity rates among kids, so they're offering double the amount of gold for each child who jumps on the fat-shedding bandwagon. Two children per family between the ages of 2 and 14 can participate in the program, which is aptly titled "Your Child In Gold." The two-month program has launched during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. That was intentional, according to "Your Child In Gold"'s website:

"Ramadan is the most appropriate season to launch such initiatives as it reminds us about many health benefits of reducing weight and encourages us to take strong steps to change our bad lifestyles."
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Gold is a tangible lure, unlike vague ideas of feeling and looking better, so it's no surprise that the program has been popular since its launch. However, plenty of people tried to register children who had no need to lose weight, or were even underweight — likely because of the potential cash rewards. Because of that, "Your Child In Gold" implemented a screening policy when registering participants. Around 18,000 people, including 468 kids, qualified for the program.

However, experts still worry that it could cause crash dieting, leading to unhealthy repercussions and/or gaining the weight back after the program ends. Dubai nutritionists are warning families about pushing their children too hard. Rana Shoucair, a nutrition specialist, stated that the gym is for adults: "The children can run a little on the treadmill, but should not do heavy lifting." But since exercise and P.E. classes have been getting axed around Dubai, some kind of effort is more necessary than ever before. "Kids are staying in front of the TV and on the computers. There is no exercising in schools," said Hussain Nasser Lootah, the head of Dubai Municipality.

Whether you think the program is an excellent idea or a misguided attempt at weight loss, there's no denying its flashiness (literally and figuratively). And it's certainly better than the corset diet or the Obalon balloon diet.

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