Keeping the doctor away

If this wretched Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we all need to adopt healthier eating habits.

Obesity rates and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer are on the rise here, on the mainland U.S., and in other westernized countries. But here and in other U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands, these non-communicable lifestyle diseases have become a bona fide health emergency, according to a 2013 Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health study.

The Staywell Guam Diabetes Foundation says nearly 12 percent of all adults in Guam have diabetes. Among Chamorros, the rate is higher - 16.2 percent. The foundation says “our next generation is at risk as well, with childhood obesity, a major risk factor for diabetes, at 23 percent.”

Our public health officials and the physicians advising Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero about the pandemic repeatedly tell us that having a “comorbidity” like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, or an auto-immune disease, increases our chances of becoming very sick if we contract the Covid-19 virus. The fact is that most of the people hospitalized with this virus on Guam, and nearly all who have died here of complications associated with Covid-19 so far, have either been diabetic or have had some other type of health challenge.

Clearly, we need to eat more healthy foods. A study of diet and obesity rates among Chamorro and Filipino adults on Guam published in 2008 by the University of Guam, the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, and the University of Hawaii, revealed that of the top 25 foods sources of energy intake by either group, the only marginally healthy item on the Chamorro list was orange juice, which came in at No. 10. For Filipinos, No. 10 was bananas and No. 23 was mangoes, which are at least real live natural fruits.

The study noted that before the war, Chamorros ate a predominantly natural diet. The island’s food intake changed after World War II. Uncle Sam fed starving people rice and canned meat when they came out of Manenggon. As everyone knows, once you taste that salty meat, fried and served with hot rice, that’s it. The island diet “began to shift from locally grown foods to imported rice and highly processed canned goods, such as Spam®, corned beef and Vienna sausage,” according to the study.

Food traditions are hard to break. Think about our f