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Return to traditional diet to reduce diabetes – Chinese doctors

A team of Chinese doctors have appealed to Samoans to return to their traditional diet as a solution to the high rates of diabetes and obesity in the country.

The doctors, who have been working in Samoa for the last three months, say the alarming number of lifestyle diseases in Samoa is due to locals abandoning their traditional diet for foods that are high in sugar and cholesterol content.

Dr. Zheng, who is one of six doctors who are part of the Chinese medical team, told the Samoa Observer that the shift from eating organically-rich traditional diets is already having a long-term effect on Samoans’ health.

“Body mass index increases in Samoa have been attributed to the changes in the way of life, including a shift away from farming and fishing towards more sedentary occupations, and the increasing consumption of energy-dense imported food,” he said.

Obesity increases the risks of diabetes, added Dr. Zheng and people who are obese have a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which is also known as insulin-resistant or adult-onset diabetes. 

“This is a condition where your blood glucose level is persistently high,” said Dr. Zheng.

He said Type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity in Samoa have increased for both sexes and across all age groups between 1978 and 2013, and the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes mellitus is similar between sexes, but obesity is more prevalent in women than men. 

More than one-in-four Samoan adults will have Type 2 diabetes mellitus in 2020 based on period trends, added Dr. Zheng. 

In a bid to address the issue, Dr. Zheng said long-term solutions include identifying the diseases and programmes charged with delivering care to patients in Samoa, promoting screening and healthy lifestyles for diabetic and obesity patients, and raising awareness through mainstream and social media. 

According to the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.), the high incidence of diabetes in Samoa can be reduced if people changed their lifestyle. 

“From our experience, the complication of diabetes is so severe that we get to see some patients with diabetes foot in the (hospital) ward who immediately need amputation,” added Dr. Zheng.

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