Skip to comments.Spam At Heart Of South Pacific Obesity Crisis
Posted on 02/11/2008 6:54:44 PM PST by blam
Spam at heart of South Pacific obesity crisis
By Nick Squires In Sydney
Last Updated: 12:32pm GMT 11/02/2008
It was lampooned by Monty Python and spurned by British shoppers, but Spam is fuelling a "raging epidemic" of diabetes, strokes and heart disease among the previously lithe inhabitants of the South Pacific.
Another of Britain's colonial culinary legacies - corned beef - is also being blamed for a rise in obesity-related illnesses in countries once known for muscled warriors and slim-hipped maidens.
Many islanders drive to the local shop to buy tins of spam
Countries across the region - many of them former British territories, from Tonga to Tuvalu - are struggling to deal with a health crisis caused by poor diet and not enough exercise.
Where once islanders ate fish, vegetables and coconuts, burning off excess calories by casting nets from canoes and farming small plots of land, now they eat tinned, processed food and drive to the nearest shop.
Once confined to the South Pacific's somnolent capitals, the problem of obesity has now spread to outlying islands.
"Even if you go into a store in a remote village you'll find shelves of Spam and corned beef," said Dr Jan Pryor, the director of research at the Fiji School of Medicine.
"In the past it was unusual for anyone to have a stroke under 50, now people are having strokes in their twenties and thirties. You see it every day."
Figures from the World Health Organisation show that Pacific island nations make up eight of the world's 10 most obese countries.
"What we have in this country is a raging epidemic. We have 6,000 to 8,000 cases of diabetes out of a population of 53,000 people," said Carl Hacker, the director of economic policy and planning in the Marshall Islands.
"What is unfolding here is a physical disaster and a fiscal disaster."
The single-island nation of Nauru, which faces economic disaster in the wake of its Australian-run refugee detention centre closing down last week, heads the list with 94.5 per cent of people older than 15 defined as obese.
Similar problems are repeated across the South Pacific.
"When I was a child, there was less imported food, we would eat local food, which was high carbohydrate, low sugar and high fibre," said Dr Malokai Ake, the chief medical officer for public health in Tonga.
"We would walk or ride on a horse to work in the plantations and spend a lot of time fishing, swimming or diving.
"The amount of calories people have every day now, we used to only have on feast days."
Researchers have suggested Pacific Islanders have a genetic disposition to obesity. They say their metabolism has learned to cope over thousands of years with times of plenty and periods of famine by quickly storing surplus calories as body fat.
Tonga's late king, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who died in 2006, was once renowned as the world's heaviest monarch, weighing in at 440lbs.
He tried to persuade his subjects to lose weight by taking up - in his seventies - regular bicycle rides up and down the runway of the country's international airport.
But education has not been enough to curb the growth of obesity, largely because of economics.
It is cheaper to buy "mutton flaps" - belly cuts from sheep which are high in saturated fat - from New Zealand and Australia, or "turkey tails" from the US, than fresh local fish.
Some countries have tried banning the most unhealthy imports.
Fiji banned the importation of mutton flaps in 2000 and Samoa banned imports of turkey tails in 2007.
Sshh, dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your spam. I love it. I’m having spam spam spam spam spam spam spam beaked beans spam spam spam and spam!
I have a sister and b-i-l who love to eat spam, other than that they are normal.
Has this genius ever seen a Samoan?
I don’t eat ANY Hormel products, anyway. I boycott the products of liberal activists.
Just booked my sex holiday in Tonga and turns out they're all fatties.
I feel so stupid.
Armour TREET is much better than Spam. Try it.
No more flapping the mutton for you, buster.
SPAM comes nearest to tasting like human flesh—an islander pasttime in years past.
I guess government handouts and not working.
The Spam website is, well, scary.
If you’ve seen how expensive SPAM is, you’d realize that the headline is contrived.
Don’t sign up for their email list.
Ain’t none of y’all who’ve lived ‘til you’ve had a fried spam sandwich on a hamburger bun.
We’ll all live together in spam harmony.
I remember Nikita Krhuschev (I have no idea how to spell that name) said he would have starved to death during WWII if it had not been for Spam.
Perhaps I should donate my Y2K supply. I think I also have a bag or two of rice around.
Ah, so that's what the kids call it these days.
I always thought spam and treet were about the same thing.
Miss Tonga, who is also now Miss South Pacific. Might want to rethink trusting this article... ;-)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.