Millions of dirhams could be cut from healthcare costs if weight-loss surgery and follow-up cosmetic procedures were covered by health insurance, doctors say.

They say the operations can cut the risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

But insurers will not cover it because they see it as a short-term cure, and say patients should be urged to commit to weight loss through diet and exercise.

But Dr Abdulla Alhassani, gastroenterologist at Zayed Military Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said bariatric surgery was the best treatment for obesity, of which the country has a high rate.

“Obesity is one of the main problems the world is facing and the UAE is considered one of the countries with high prevalence,” Dr Alhassani said. “Although surgery is considered the most expensive obesity treatment, it is also the most effective.”