Changing lives: No wonder we have an obesity problem

By Dr. Walter Vermeulen 04 June 2018, 12:00AM

Talofa Samoa! As mentioned in our last Health Column, last month, M.E.T.I. attended a Regional Forum meeting in Suva focusing on ‘Promoting Nutritious Food systems in the Pacific Islands’. 

As could be expected, the delegates were presented with many statistics that reflected the state of agriculture and nutrition in their countries. One particular statistic caught our eye: ‘In Samoa, the dietary energy provided by vegetable oils increased from 2% to 26% between 1996 and 2011.’ 

In these 15 years, suddenly the Samoan families started to use more and more vegetable oils in their cooking encouraged by relentless commercial advertising, showing actors putting on a chef’s hat and declaring in an authoritative voice that they only use this or that brand of vegetable oil in their cooking… 

No wonder we have an obesity problem in our country, with 80% of adults being obese or overweight! Vegetable oils are nothing but plain fat. The process of extracting the oil from the vegetables and beans leaves thousands of plant chemicals and fiber behind and all that is left is 100% fat: just calories devoid of nutrients. That’s why we call them ‘empty calories’. The more you take in fats, the lower your intake of micronutrients that are the food of your immune cells. 

Therefore, lowering the fat in your diet is the single most effective way to strengthen your immune system that keeps your body healthy and protects you from NCD and cancer.

In METI’s Health Seminar we explain to you that to regain optimal health it is essential to lower your fat intake to about 10% of the energy you take in from the food. You can accomplish that by only eating plant foods and stop using any oils. Some housewives are so used to adding oil to all their food preparations that our suggestion to stop using any vegetable oil comes as a surprise. Yet we show in the Seminar that you can cook your onions and vegetables just as well with small amounts of water and obtain the same results.   By drastically lowering the fat content in your food –by stop using oils and animal products- you decrease the amount of calories you take in by about 1000 calories a day. This is the way to lose weight as you recently saw on TV1 when they showed the winner of the Fika Fou competition. At the same time, lowering your fat intake is the single most effective way to strengthen your immune system to fight cancer. Already 30 years ago, the Surgeon General in the USA had drawn the Public’s attention to the strong link between fat intake and cancer. Obesity and cancer go hand in hand. 

To help you start cooking without oil, here is one of our favourite recipes that also allows you to use ‘poka’ in your daily meals. (‘Poka’ is plainly cooked baby taro leaves that you can collect from your taro patch or buy as ‘fusi luau’ in the market.) In the recipe you will see mentioned the term ‘water-sauté’. ‘sauté’ comes from the French verb ‘sauter’, which means ‘jump’. You put your onions and garlic in a saucepan over the fire and add a small amount of water. The water will start boiling and the onions and garlic will start cooking and ‘jumping’ in the liquid. Keep adding small amounts of water until the onions are transparent (about 5 minutes). 



One packet of fresh baby taro leaves (‘fusi luau’ bought in the market)

One large onion – diced

Three cloves of garlic – finely chopped

One quarter (or less) of a medium sized Pumpkin – diced

One tin of baked beans

Spices (curry, turmeric, cumin)


1. In a large pot put about 6 cups of water and boil.

2. Wash the taro leaves and cut out the hard mid-rib. 

3. Chop up the leaves and place into the boiling water. 

4. Let simmer for 10 minutes, discard the water and set aside.

5. Steam (or cook) the pumpkin and set aside.

6. In a large skillet, place the diced onion and garlic, add a dash of balsamic vinegar and a small amount of water and ‘water-sauté’ until onion is transparent (about 5 minutes). 

7. Add poka, pumpkin and baked beans. Stir well to mix all ingredients.

8. Add spices to taste. 

9. Serve with taro or other root crops or green bananas or brown rice.   

The testimony for this Health Column is presented by Mr Gafa Silipa who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure for four years. In his own words he explains his condition and the rapid and complete recovery brought about by him following strictly the WFPB diet. 


Name: Gafa Silipa

Village: Tufuiopa and Toamua

Age: 57


I am Gafa Silipa, who was affected by the diabetes and High Blood Pressure for four years. 

I thank God that it was only four years that I’ve got these diseases and now they are reversed. Although I didn’t have these diseases for a long time, they affected me badly. 

I started to develop diabetes and high blood pressure in early 2014, my blood sugar was usually 18 upwards, in spite of the drugs I had to take. 

Then the diabetes started to affect my sight. I went to see the Eye Doctor, but the eye Doctor said that they didn’t give any treatment unless my blood sugar would come down, while I was still taking drugs. And the Doctor told me to go and attend METI’s Clinic. 

I went and attended METI’s Health Seminar on the 1st of October 2017. In a matter of weeks, I felt my body become lighter and my blood sugar dropped from 15 to 9.1 and my blood pressure became normal: that was until February 2018, when I started ‘cheating’ and not following the whole foods plant based diet strictly. 

When I started eating again these fatty foods, I felt all the feelings when I was sick with diabetes come back, and also developed boils on my leg and my right hand. I made up my mind and went back to METI’s Clinic on the last week of April this year, and METI still opened the door for me, they took my blood sugar and the result was 20. 

They repeated their advice for me and I started METI’s diet again. In a matter of weeks, my blood sugar come down and no more boils on my body. Now I want say thank you to my wife for supporting me for all this time and big ‘faafetai tele lava’ to METI for this great help, now my diabetes and high blood pressure are reversed. If you are reading this column and you suffer from these Non-Communicable Diseases, I strongly suggest you go and see METI. 

If you, reading this column or any of your family or friends are suffering from NCD, it might be wise to come to the METI Clinic at Motootua to enroll in our Health Seminars to get all the details of how to start the life-saving WFPB nutrition program. You can reach us at 7636358 or 7239297 during working hours, 8 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday.

By Dr. Walter Vermeulen 04 June 2018, 12:00AM

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