Obesity in the Pacific….


Obesity in the Pacific

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Nauruan residents walking around Nauru International Airport.

Young Nauruans in 1914

According to Forbes, Pacific island nations and associated states make up the top seven on a 2007 list of heaviest countries, and eight of the top ten. In all these cases, more than 70% of citizens age 15 and over are obese.[1] A mitigating argument is that the BMI measures used to appraise obesity in Caucasian bodies may need to be adjusted for appraising obesity in Polynesian bodies, which typically have larger bone and muscle mass than Caucasian bodies.[2][3][4][5]

Obesity in Pacific islands is a growing health concern with health officials stating that it is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the Pacific Rim.[citation needed]


1Weight rank


Main article: Obesity in Nauru

Obesity is seen as a sign of wealth in Nauru.[6] 31% of Nauruans are diabetic.[7] This rate is as high as 45% among the 55-64 year old age group .[6]


Life expectancy has fallen to 64 in Tonga. Tongan life expectancy used to be in the mid-70s.[8] Up to 40% of the population is said to have type 2 diabetes.[8] Tongan Royal Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV, who died in 2006, holds the Guinness World Record for being the heaviest-ever monarch – 200kg.[8]


In Fiji, strokes used to be rare in the under 50s, whilst doctors reported that they had become common amongst patients in their 20s and 30s.[9]

Marshall Islands[edit]

In the Marshall Islands in 2008, there were 8,000 cases of diabetes out of a population of 53,000.[9]


Reasons for obesity in the Pacific islands are thought to include

  • Much of the local diet is of processed, calorie-dense, imported food such as spamor corned beef, rather than fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, in part because past mining reduced the amount of arable land.[10].[11][12] Some very unhealthy foods are sold in the Pacific islands due to relatively low wealth.[13]
  • a relatively sedentary lifestyle, including among children.[14]
  • cultural factors including
    • past poor public education on diet, exercise and health[15](micronutrient deficiencies are also common[16]),
    • feasting and festivals continue currently to be major parts of life,[17]
    • imported foods have been given higher social status than local, healthier foods,[18]and
    • historically a large body size was associated with wealth, power and beauty.[6][19]

High rates of obesity appear within 15 months of birth.[20]


Obesity is leading to increased levels of illness, including diabetes[21] and heart diseases.

See also[edit]