The goal of this study was to evaluate weight, nutritional status, and attitudes toward weight and health among a cohort of young women drawn from local populations in the United Arab Emirates.


This sample was composed of 103 female Emiratis, aged 18–30. Eighty of the women were students at Zayed University (ZU) in Dubai and 23 were students at UAE University (UAEU) in Al Ain. Research was divided into two phases. Methods included the collection of weight and height measurements (to analyze BMIs) and body fat percentages; 24-h food and activity recalls; semistructured, structured, and unstructured interviews; and participant observation.


The distribution of BMIs in this sample was skewed toward underweight and normal weight in the ZU sample and split evenly between underweight-to-normal and overweight-to-obese in the UAEU sample, a finding that stands in contrast to the high rates of overweight and obesity reported in other age cohorts in local populations. This lower distribution of BMIs was correlated with widely expressed concern over body image, whereas reported interest in nutrition was much lower. Dietary patterns reflected attempts to manage weight. There was a marked trend toward nutritionally poor diets and sedentary living.


Obesity and overweight among young women in the Emirati population do not appear to be as significant a problem as they are in older populations. However, several other health-related causes for concern emerged in this study, including extreme dieting strategies, insufficient micronutrient and protein intake, and widespread inactivity. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.