Dubai offers residents gold to fight obesity

Residents of Dubai now have an incentive to lose weight: gold.

For every kilogram of weight lost by Aug. 16, contestants in a 30-day weight-loss challenge launched on Friday can earn one gram of gold.

The "Your Weight in Gold" initiative coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when individuals refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Often times, people break the fast by overindulging and consuming more calories than they would during a normal day outside of Ramadan.

'Biggest Loser'

The top three "biggest losers" can win gold worth up to 20,000 dirhams – $5,400 – but the contestants must lose a minimum of 2 kilograms – 4.4 pounds – to qualify for the contest.

"Participants must have excess weight to reduce and stay away from unhealthy methods to lose weight and should be present on the final day to measure weight," said a Dubai official in a press release.

Dubai has a history of giving away luxury cars, yachts and other grand-scale prizes to residents. In some shopping malls, there are gold vending machines.

Obesity a growing problem

In a city known as one of the most modern in the world, Dubai is also battling a growing obesity problem. High household incomes combined with an increasingly processed diet have contributed to a population that is battling obesity-related illnesses.

"High temperatures [regularly more than 100 degrees] that deter exercise coupled with the growing presence of Western fast food have had a toxic effect on weight and health," wrote Emily Shire at the Week.

Health officials in Dubai are spending millions to help control the epidemic. But in a country where residents are already so rich, some wonder if the gold incentive will be attractive enough to actually encourage weight loss.

Sources: USA Today, LA Times

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