Countries, such as the UK, need to take heed of countries, such as the Samoan islands, in which obesity and type 2 diabetes have become ubiquitous.
The Samoan islands of American Samoa and Independent Samoa have some of the highest rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes on the globe. In American Samoa, around 75% of adults are obese and over 20% has type 2 diabetes. This compares to around 6% of the UK population that have any form of diabetes. Independent Samoa has a slightly lower rate of type 2 diabetes, but the figures suggest the rate is catching up on American Samoa.
Dr Stephen McGarvey, epidemiologist at Brown University, has studied the island for clues as to where obesity has come from. Whereas no obvious signs come from genes, the explosion in both obesity and diabetes coincides well with the introduction of fast food restaurants and supermarkets onto the islands. The influx saw people’s diets increase by 900 calories per day between 1961 and 2007.
Where once the islands had subsisted on fishing and available vegetables and fruits, now diets of the 250,000 islanders are saturated with either fast food or processed foods from supermarkets. In addition, a much reduced dependence on fishing and the introduction of labour saving devices including cars has decreased physical activity.
The rapid rise in rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes is likely to be influenced by the small area of the islands, allowing the changes in diet and activity to permeate the entire culture on a much quicker scale than it has in other countries.
Rates of diabetes in the UK and Europe have grown at a significantly slower rate than in the Polynesian islands but if reliance on processed food and too little activity in the UK is maintained or continues to increase, the UK’s type 2 diabetes rates could also approach 1 in 5 adults within a number of decades.

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