Background Obesity is a serious worldwide medical condition, considered by some researchers as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. The main objective of this study was to assess the quantity and quality of obesity-related research from Arab countries and compare it with that from non-Arab Middle Eastern countries.
Methods Original scientific articles or reviews published by Arab countries about obesity up until 2011 were screened using the ISI Web of Science database. Research activity was assessed by analyzing the annual research productivity, journals names, citations, top 10 active institutions, and the contribution of each Arab country to obesity research.
Results The total number of original and review research articles published globally about obesity was 110,167. The leading country in obesity research was United States of America (42.47%). Turkey, Israel, and Iran were in the top 30 countries while Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Egypt, and Kuwait ranked 39th, 43rd, and 47th, respectively. A total of 1,121 documents about “obesity” were published by Arab countries, representing 1.0% of the global research output, with 13,343 citations (average citation of 11.9 per document) and an h-index of 44. The Arab countries’ research output was very low until the mid-1990s and then increased steadily. Of the 1,121 documents, 107 (9.55%) were published in the Saudi Medical Journal. KSA, with a total of 318 publications ranked first among Arab countries in research quantity while Kuwait ranked first after adjustment based on population size. King Saud University in KSA was the most productive institution with a total of 140 documents. Compared with other non-Arab Middle Eastern countries, the research productivity from Arab countries was lower than that from Turkey, higher than that from Iran, and close to that from Israel. However, the h-index of documents about obesity published from Arab countries was lower than that of Turkey and Israel, but slightly higher than that from Iran.
Conclusions The present data reveals a good contribution by some Arab countries, particularly Arab gulf countries, to obesity research. More efforts are needed by other Arab countries to bridge the gap in this topic and to improve the quality of obesity-related research originating from Arab countries.