Haley Sweetland Edwards in The Atlantic:
Qatar is a tiny country with a big problem.
This Connecticut-sized nation, sticking out like a loose tooth in the Persian Gulf, is one of the most obese nations in the world, with residents fatter, on average, than even those of the United States, which often takes the cake in such competitions.
According to recent studies, roughly half of adults and a third of children in Qatar are obese, and almost 17 percent of the native population suffers from diabetes. By comparison, about a third of Americans are obese, and eight percent are diabetic. Qatar also has very high rates of birth defects and genetic disorders — problems that, along with the prevalence of obesity (PDF) and diabetes, have worsened in recent decades, according to local and international health experts.
So what's going wrong in little Qatar?
To misappropriate a well-worn phrase: It's the economy, stupid. In September, Qatar officially became the richest nation in the world, as measured by per capita gross domestic product. It also recently became the world's biggest exporter of natural gas, and earned the title of fastest growing economy in the world. By international development standards, all this growth has happened virtually overnight, making Qataris' lifestyles much more unhealthy, and at the same time leading many to hang on resolutely to what's left of their fleeting tribal traditions — practices that include inter-marriage between close family members and cousins.