Dubai's government has come up with a novel way to fight obesity in the Gulf state - paying residents in gold for every kilogram lost.

The 30-day weight-loss challenge was launched today to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the faithful refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

Many eat too much after breaking the fast, tucking into traditional dishes loaded with fat and sugar that can push their daily calorie intake well above average levels outside of Ramadan.

For every kilogram dropped when Ramadan ends on 16 August, contestants who register from today can walk away with a gram of gold, currently worth about €32.

The scheme, part of a government campaign to fight growing obesity, was announced as part of its 'Your Weight in Gold' initiative.

The top three dieters can also win gold coins worth up to 20,000 dirhams (€4,100). The contestant has to lose a minimum 2kg to qualify for the contest.

"Participant 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," Dubai Municipality said in a press release.

Health officials in Dubai, the commercial hub of the United Arab Emirates, and in neighbouring Gulf nations, are spending millions to control obesity among their citizens.

Oil wealth and high household incomes have led to overeating, high-sugar diets and a heavy reliance on cars for getting around, leading to an explosion of diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses.

Five of the ten countries where diabetes is most prevalent are in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), an umbrella organisation of more than 200 national associations.

Child obesity is also a growing problem.

Dubai is known for its larger-than-life offers. It has a history of giving away luxury cars and yachts in lucky draws and is home to one the largest gold markets in the region.

The emirate even has gold vending machines in shopping malls.