Living with diabetes in Dubai

World Diabetes Day returns on Wednesday November 14

Area Guides
Area Guides

As waistlines in the region continue to expand in tandem with rising diabetes levels, the assumption for many people is that a bad diet not only leads to weight gain, but also to developing this very serious condition. In fact, this isn’t always true: there are two types of diabetes, only one of which is related to obesity. Both can occur at any age, although type 1 is the result of low insulin levels. Type 2, in comparison, tends to occur due to high-sugar diets and obesity, which can affect the body’s ability to respond properly to insulin.

In either case, it can be a debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition. Statistics show that the UAE has the second highest prevalence in the world, with about 20 percent of the population afflicted and a further 18 percent at risk of developing diabetes. With World Diabetes Day on Wednesday November 14, we take a look at some of the people and organisations working to make life easier for suffers.

You may have already heard of the Decide initiative, which has brought together healthcare companies to help raise awareness and educate people on the importance of healthy eating and exercise in managing type 1 and preventing type 2 diabetes. While its website,, offers advice on living a full life with the condition, it is yet to launch its community forum. Meanwhile, I Am Number One offers support for sufferers of type 1. The group was recently formed by two Dubai mothers, Gilly Geisler and Evelyn Matafonov, who felt there was a lack of awareness and a need for more support for families who are coping with type 1 diabetes – particularly expats, whether they’ve just arrived or are settled in the city. The group organises everything from coffee mornings to cookery classes at Oasis Centre, and can be contacted through its website,

At the American Hospital, Diabetes Centre Dubai houses specialists and consultants who can offer assistance whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or even if you are simply concerned about developing Type 2. The centre’s main aim is to reduce the incidence of diabetes throughout the city by increasing public awareness, and offering advice on how to lead a more healthy life. Support meetings are also organised, where patients and families can share their experiences, but these are less frequent, with three or four get-togethers held annually.

Foot care
The impact of diabetes and high blood glucose levels over longer periods of time can include damage to the nerves, kidneys, eyes and blood vessels, and foot problems in particular can become serious very quickly. As a result of nerve damage, a person with diabetes may not be able to feel their feet properly, and inhibited sweat and oil production in the skin can lead to abnormal pressure on the joints, bones and skin during walking. As a result, sores may develop, which will heal with difficulty due to the person also suffering from damaged blood vessels and a weakened immune system. In extreme cases, infection can lead to a need for amputation. Foot Solutions stores in Dubai can customise products to help anyone suffering from diabetic neuropathy, offering protection via a variety of means, including a high, wide toe box to give the toes more space, removable insoles and rocker soles to reduce pressure on areas of the feet most susceptible to pain, particularly the ball of the foot.
Foot Solutions, Oasis Centre (04 515 4362); The Dubai Mall (04 325 3966).

Eating out

Eating out as a diabetic needn’t be fraught with anxiety: most menus offer a healthy choice. Yet having to eat the same thing in most restaurants can take away from the pleasure of dining out. During November, a number of local eateries are introducing diabetic-friendly dishes (essentially low-glycemic, low-carb foods): to try them, head to Mango Tree in Souk Al Bahar (04 426 7313), Carluccio’s restaurants around town (, and Zafran in Dubai Marina Mall (04 399 7357). What’s more, Balance Café in Oasis Centre (offers diabetic-friendly options throughout the year.

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