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A new lifestyle medicine event was held in Saudi Arabia for the first time this weekend.

The Lifestyle Enhancement Conference (LEC), at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh, was hosted by the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, and in association with the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya).

Globally-renowned experts on healthcare, wellness, medicine, and alternative therapies came together to discuss some of the most pressing issues of today – including the importance of healthy choices regarding nutrition and physical activity to help prevent diseases like diabetes and obesity.

Increasing health and welfare

According to Shaima Saleh Alhusseini, Managing Director of SFA, the organization’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in the Kingdom, which it does by championing physical activity and fitness and advocating conscientious nutrition.

She added: “The Lifestyle Enhancement Conference, staged in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Weqaya, is the first event to bring together top caliber medical professionals to facilitate the increase of health education levels in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Khaled

HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, who played a role in organizing the conference – at which he was a speaker – revealed to Plant Based News what motivated him to get involved.

“The Sports for All Federation is mandated to increase the overall participation in physical fitness to 40 percent of all residents in the country by 2030,” he said. “Nutrition and fitness are intrinsically linked; you feel better when you work out, right? But you don’t feel good enough to work out if you aren’t eating well; it is quite cyclical.

“In addition to these obvious factors, we advocate for taking steps to prevent ill health. I’m excited because the Ministry of Health and the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control have taken this huge step.

“When companies and city councils acknowledge Meatless Monday, it is breaking news; now imagine that the official health government bodies are doing this. What we are doing here in Saudi is bringing together the medical and wellness community to start the messaging at the root: with your healthcare professionals.

“This has far-reaching implications; it is truly a major move for these respected entities to get behind this program and acknowledge and support that plant-based nutrition can be one more step to a healthy lifestyle.”

Plant-based advocate

Prince Khaled is a major advocate of plant-based nutrition and has been following a plant-based diet for years. He revealed the benefits he has experienced as a result of adopting some of the principles the experts at the event spoke about about.

“I think if you have the good fortune to wake up each day with strength, vigor, and health, it is always going to be a lifechanging experience. I have been plant-based for years, and I’ve never felt better; I also have peace of mind that I’m doing what I can in terms of prevention,” he said.

“This is one of the key messages we wanted to convey through the LEC conference; an old adage that holds so true here is that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

Annual event

Following the success of the LEC, the Saudi Sports for All Federation is planning to host it every year, bringing information around plant-based nutrition and preventative health empowerment back to the region.

“It was the close partnership and collaboration of the Ministry of Health and the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control that allowed us to bring together these clinicians, academics, and world-renowned pioneers in plant-based science,” said Prince Khaled.

“We are looking forward to 2020, and from this inaugural event we have a lot of positive feedback and enthusiasm to stage an even bigger LEC next year.”

Maria Chiorando

Maria is the editor of Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle.