A top official of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is urging Barbadians to make the country the first trans fat-free nation in the region.
PAHO’S Caribbean Programme Coordinator Dr Godfrey Xuereb recommended this as part of a healthy lifestyle programme which should include exercise and a reduction in sugar use.
In an address this morning at the opening of the Week of Excellence Seminar on Developing a National Policy on Wellness at Solidarity House, Dr Xuereb said the Barbadian diet had become increasing unhealthy over the past 20 years because of the addition of trans fat and the high sugar content.
“A diet that has an excessive amount of sugars and fats; a diet that makes the Barbadian population one of the most obese in the world; a diet that is killing us, that is leading to suffering through the disabilities of NCDs [non communicable diseases]; a diet that has moved from foods that are unprocessed and freshly made to one that has a high percentage of processed foods that contain trans fats and refined sugars – two components that are closely linked with NCDs,” he stressed.
The PAHO official cited statistics which show that 84 per cent of total deaths in Barbados were attributed to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer. He also referred to the latest World Health Organization figures which revealed that Barbadians had a 14 per cent probability of dying between ages 30 and 70 years from these diseases.
“This means that 14 out of every 100 of the productive adult population of this country will not see their 70th birthday,” he said.
“We can easily remove trans fats from the Bajan diet. It is something that other countries have done and it is something that the food industry knows how to do,” he said.
Dr Xuereb complimented Government for imposing a tax on sugary drinks, contending that these drinks added a significant amount of empty calories to Barbadians’ diet.
He also emphasized the need for Barbadians to engage in more physical activities and suggested turning the heart of Bridgetown into a pedestrianized area to encouraging walking.
“We would see more people walking, we would reduce the pollution levels from cars thus not only giving us cleaner air to breath but also preserving the historical buildings in town that are all being affected by pollution belted out by our vehicles,” Dr Xuereb said. (AH)