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Traditional high fat, low carbohydrate diet more beneficial to the Pacific

Published on November 7, 2013,

According to Australia News Network, a recent study has found that people in Vanuatu are healthier compared to other Pacific countries due to a high fat traditional diet…

The provinces of Vanuatu

The provinces of Vanuatu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Professor Grant Schofield from the Auckland University of Technology conducted research on the food habits of several Pacific countries including Tonga, Tokelau, Kiribati and Vanuatu.

He told Pacific Beat that this trend in Vanuatu is really interesting as many are benefiting from the consumption of traditional foods due to a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates.

“The problem is to try and stop them developing the same problems that… the Pacific has started to develop, which is as soon as you start to develop and urbanise and change your food then everything goes quite badly wrong,” he said.

“Once you start to add… sugar, they all go badly.”

Across the Pacific, diabetes prevention is high on the public health agenda.

While people have heard the familiar advice of having a low fat diet, Dr Schofield himself has experimented with a low carbohydrate, high fat diet.

He says he has not only lost weight but also, noticed his general wellbeing improve.

“The advice that we’ve been giving in most developed countries is that things like coconuts are very high in saturated fat and of course everyone knows that saturated fat is bad for you,” he said.

“But it just doesn’t play out that way in these traditional food cultures.”

Fat benefits

Dr Schofield says it was back in the 1980s when the benefits of high fat traditional diets in the Pacific were recognized.

The problem arises when refined and processed carbohydrates are added to the diet.

Dr Schofield says a high carbohydrate diet works for the Chinese and Japanese cultures where rice is a staple in their diet.

“My observation is that Pacific people don’t do well on those sorts of carbohydrates,” he said.

“The Pacific population has really been eating a good quality protein and a relatively high fat diet coming from plants for most of the time the Pacific’s been around.

“Whereas (if) you go to Japanese and Chinese populations, they’ve been eating rice for thousands of years.”

“So they’re quite different. But all those countries once you start to add the third thing which is sugar, they all go badly.”

Trials are now underway in the Pacific community in New Zealand where obesity and diabetes are a growing concern.

“What you see is contrary to what the regular health advice is, which is like you’re too fat, you need to exercise more and eat less and you particularly need to get your fat down,” Dr Schofield said.

“We’ve gone for the opposite approach which is just reduce the sugar and refined and processed carbohydrates, but make sure you do get some fat and protein and those sorts of traditional foods.

“And you see quite a good deal of success.”…

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