Unhealthy Diets – The Silent Killer


WE cannot deny it, the world is facing an epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases and unhealthy diets are a major contributor to this epidemic.

According to the World Heart Federation, “unhealthy diets are linked to four of the world’s top ten leading risk factors causing death: high blood pressure, high blood glucose, overweight and obesity and high cholesterol.” In fact, unhealthy diets contribute to more than 11 million deaths a year. This means it is now a bigger killer than tobacco.

The Caribbean is not immune to this epidemic. According to the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), the typical Caribbean diet is characterized by an under-consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereals and legumes, coupled with an over-consumption of imported foods which are rich in saturated fat, sugar, salt, and refined cereals. Additionally, consumers in Caribbean countries now ingest more calories per capita than needed.

It is against this backdrop that Consumers International, an international consumer protection agency focused the theme “Healthy Diets” for World Consumer Rights Day this year.

Given the inextricability of healthy diets to the universally declared rights of the consumer to safety, information and redress, Consumers International sought to lend support to the World Health Organization’s efforts in combating the scourge of non-communicable diseases inflicting all societies.

Conscious of the impact of unhealthy diets, particularly on the young and vulnerable, the Consumer Affairs Department, sought to take the message to ten primary schools around the island. The highlight of these presentations was when a young boy from the Richfond Primary School emptied his bag of the junk food which his mother had given to him for “break” that day and told his teacher: “Miss, you can have it, I am not eating that again.” This action spoke volumes.

The quest to educate the general public took on the form of two information and health screening events on March 10 and 11, in Vieux Fort and Rodney Bay respectively. These events were done in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards, the National Consumers Association and the St.Lucia Diabetic and Hypertensive Association.

The success of these activities was recorded in the number of persons who visited the booths to ask questions, get screened for blood glucose, blood pressure and received counselling on how to achieve healthy lifestyles through improved eating habits and increased physical activity. When all was done our records revealed that 157 persons were screened in Vieux Fort and 156 persons were screened in Rodney Bay.

The chronicling event to commemorate World Consumer Rights Day was the island-wide roving road show on March 13. As consumers lined the streets to listen to our health message, consumers in Anse-la-Raye ‘stole the show’ as they took hold of our deejay’s microphone, one after the other to ask some very important questions.

The activities though different in nature all conveyed the same message: the foods we eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. Consumers therefore were encouraged to act responsibly and eat healthy diets consisting of foods high in nutritional value.

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