|We may choose not to see it, but there’s an ominously obese genie hanging over our beautiful
tropical Pacific paradise
(sunset at Faofao, Upolu, Samoa, August 2016, JJ)
|Abstract: This report provides accurate, objective data on what Tokelauans imported in 2014 focusing on food (especially sugar), non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks, cigarettes, as well as solid waste. This can form the basis for health – and environment – policies that will improve the quality of life in Tokelau, where non-communicable diseases are already a big problem.
In terms of energy, we are but what we eat, drink, smoke and exercise. The present study gives overall and per capita consumption patterns in Tokelau. This is based on carefully analysed invoices to the stores on the atolls from the entire year 2014 verified against all 2014 shipping manifests.
The news is not good. About 50 percent of Tokelauans smoke, on average almost a 20-pack per day (recommendation: nil). Alcohol intake of all 15+ aged Tokelauans who drink alcohol averages probably to 26.5 standard drinks per week (recommendation: no more than 10 per week for women, 15 for men). Sugar intake, both in pure form and hidden in other foods, is on average per adult equivalent 940 grammes per week, that’s 236 teaspoons (WHO recommendation: ideally 84 to a maximum of 168 teaspoons per week for adults, and 42 to 84 teaspoons for children).
The top food and drink items that are imported reflect a rather unhealthy diet of highly processed refined (rather than whole) foods that are now considered “bad” in nutritional terms: high in fat, sugar, starch and salt; and very low in vitamins and dietary fibre. High alcohol consumption further contributes to excess energy intake.
Imported items also create environmental issues such as solid waste, that are addressed in this document.
The hope is that this information will provide food for thought, the basis of healthy and environmentally sound policies, and a baseline against which the success of such policies can be measured in future. Repeating this analysis in few years to monitor progress is recommended.