Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Junk meat' diet takes deadly toll in Tonga (?)

Another case of blaming the food rather than the behaviour or the genes. I am 67 now and to my recollection, Polynesians have ALWAYS been big. And there are plenty of them in Australia where there is a very different food offering in the supermarkets. It's true that you can buy canned corned beef in Australia -- I eat it myself at times -- but the cans on offer are small and few, so the Polynesians must be eating something else. And mutton flaps are unknown in Australian shops.

And the other major Pacific island race -- the Melanesians -- are not particularly overweight. They tend in fact to be fine figures of men. Yet both races are poor and have plenty of exposure to Western convenience foods

So why are Polynesians so often huge? I don't know but it's so common that it's probably genetic

On Tonga's supermarket shelves, huge cans of corned beef the size of paint tins replaced traditional fare such as fish and coconuts long ago - contributing to an obesity epidemic that has made the Pacific region ranked as the fattest in the world.

Meat in Tonga almost invariably comes in a tin, whether it be turkey breast, meat loaf, luncheon meat or Spam, which can be bought in a variety of forms including smoked, with chilli or laced with cheese for an extra calorie hit.

The common denominator, says Tonga's Chief Medical Officer, Malakai Ake, is that the "junk meat" is loaded with salt and saturated fats, meaning islanders' waistlines continue to expand.

"This is the biggest issue facing Tonga," he said, citing soaring levels of weight-related coronary disease, diabetes and strokes among islanders.

"Every other day there's a funeral, a next-door neighbour, a relative, a friend. It's always heart disease, diabetes, it's ridiculous."

The Tongan Health Department says more than 90 per cent of the population is classed as overweight and more than 60 per cent is obese.

World Health Organisation data released last year said Pacific Island nations account for eight of the top 10 countries where the male population is overweight or obese.

Experts say economic, cultural and lifestyle factors have combined to make the obesity epidemic, which is an increasing problem worldwide, more acute in the Pacific.

Dr Ake said the traditional lifestyles, where people kept fit through farming and fishing, had given way to a more sedentary existence in recent years and motor vehicles became more readily available. "In my young days we would walk everywhere and go swimming," he said. "Now people use the car to go just a little way down the street."

The Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano, said more needed to be done to combat the obesity problem and his government would look at restricting imports such as mutton flaps - cheap, fatty sheep offcuts popular in the country.

"We have to go back to the old ways, just eating good food - taros, kumaras [sweet potatoes, yams," he said. "It's a matter of saying 'sorry, you have to find an alternative', probably eat fish rather than mutton flaps."


Could a pill made from olive leaves help beat heart disease?

Only small differences observed over a short term -- and with no proper control group. Long-term effects on mortality remain uknown

A pill made from the leaves of the olive tree could be a powerful weapon in the fight against heart disease, scientists say. According to research, the olive pill is as effective as some prescription medicines at reducing high blood pressure. And it also appears to lower levels of harmful blood fats, called triglycerides, known to raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

In a study, patients who took the olive leaf pill for eight weeks saw a significant decline in blood pressure readings and triglyceride levels.

If further studies confirm the powerful effects of olive leaf tablets, they could be used to help patients who struggle to take blood pressure drugs because of their side-effects.

Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer. High blood pressure is thought to be responsible for 50 per cent of all heart attacks and strokes.

In recent years, studies have shown olive oil can protect the heart by reducing the build-up of fatty deposits inside the coronary arteries. Olives have also been credited with helping to lower the risk of breast cancer, ulcerative colitis and even depression. And it seems the trees’ thin, flat leaves may also be able to ward off illness, as they have high levels of compounds called polyphenols.

These plant chemicals have been shown to help slash the risk of major diseases by helping to protect against the harmful effects of free radicals.

Researchers at the University of Indonesia, in Jakarta, investigated olive leaf extract by recruiting 180 patients with high blood pressure – and splitting them into two groups. One received olive leaf pills for eight weeks. The rest were given an anti-hypertension drug called captopril, which can cause dizziness.

According to the research published in the journal Phytomedicine, systolic blood pressure – the higher reading – dropped an average of 11.5 points in the olive leaf group and 13.7 in the captopril patients. Diastolic blood pressure – the lower reading – fell 4.8 points in the olive leaf volunteers and 6.4 points in those on the prescription medicine.

Those on the olive treatment also saw ‘a significant reduction’ in levels of triglycerides. In a report on the study, sponsored by a Swiss manufacturer of olive leaf extract and PT Dexa Medica, which makes captopril, researcher Professor Endang Susalit said: ‘The leaves of the olive tree have been used since ancient times to combat high blood pressure, atherosclerosis [blocked arteries] and diabetes. ‘The anti-hypertensive activity of the extract was comparable to captopril, and its beneficial effects in reducing triglyceride levels were strongly indicated.’

Doctors said the findings need to be replicated in larger studies before olive pills can be used more widely.

The British Heart Foundation urged those on blood pressure medication not to stop taking their drugs without consulting their GP.

Liquid olive leaf extract is sold, at £28.99 a bottle, under the brand name Comvita Olive Leaf Complex in some Boots stores, as well as Holland & Barrett.



Wireless.Phil said...

When I lived in Hawaii there were a lot of overweight local Hawaiians, Samoans, Polynesians back in the 70s, both young and old, and they sure loved that Spam (I can't stand it) and roast pig.

Google "Food dumping in Tonga and Samoa", articles about this go back to 2002 just on the first results page.

This one from 2010:
New Zealand meat blamed for fat Islanders Pacnews | Tue, 12/01/2010 -

This one from 2002 covers everything from toxic waste to fatty foods and diabetes.

Killing Me Softly: Why is it that whenever I think of the Pacific, the word 'dumping' comes to mind?
Aug 3, 2002 ...

From a Chowhound article I found while looking up "Mutton Flaps" to learn what it is.

Look down the page at the comments about dumping fatty foods on the Islanders from back in 2007:

Tips for Dining, Eating, and Food Shopping in Australia and New Zealand (including Sydney, Melbourne & Auckland)

Wireless.Phil said...

New World Syndrome - June 2001 ATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Spam and turkey tails have turned Micronesians into Macronesians.

A case study of how fatty Western plenty is taking a disastrous toll on people in developing countries.

jonjayray said...

I think it's time for a "mind your own waistline" dictum