Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spam blamed for islanders fatness

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. 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.

1 comment:

yellowdog granny said...

i despise spam..and i will damn near eat anything..i used to wonder when i was a kid what kind of animal a spam was..