Why Are Pacific Islanders Extremely Obese?

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by Armageddon Prose
Monday, Jun 10, 2024 - 17:15

Originally published via Armageddon Prose:

“Jules: You remember Antoine Roccamora, half black, half Samoan, used to call him Tony Rocky Horror?

Vincent: Yeah, maybe. Fat, right?

Jules: I wouldn't go so far as to call a brother fat, I mean he got a weight problem. What's the n***a gonna do? He's Samoan.”
-Pulp Fiction

Looking at the list of most obese nations of the world , guessing offhand, in my own estimation, based on personal observation and George Carlin’s sermonizing — my grandpappy’s “patron saint,” as he called him, which he raised me up on — I would have placed the United States at #1 and Mexico at #2.

But, in fact, the top ten obese countries, winners of the Diabetes Darwin Awards, per World Population Review, are tiny countries floating in the Pacific, mainly in Micronesia and Polynesia.

Global Obesity Observatory offers up similar data.

What gives?

It turns out that the Pacific Islander obesity problem may be a combination of a.) Western trash fast food introduced to a people to whom that eating style is wholly alien and b.) “thrifty” genes that encourage fat storage.

Via Pacific Health Dialogue (emphasis added):

“Pacific people (especially Micronesian and Polynesian) have some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world that largely developed since the introduction of western culture and diet. Recent studies suggest that much of the risk relates to the excessive intake of sugar (sucrose) and carbohydrates, leading to a type of fat storage syndrome (metabolic syndrome). Here we discuss some of the environmental. genetic and epigenetic reasons why this group might be especially prone to developing obesity and diabetes compared to other ethnic groups. Indirect evidence suggests that the higher endogenous uric acid levels in the Polynesian-Micronesian population may represent a predisposing factor for the development of obesity and diabetes in the context of Western diets and lifestyles. Pacific people may be an ideal group to study the role of ‘thrifty genes’ in the pathogenesis of the current obesity epidemic.”

It turns out the “but muh genes” excuse that fat people love to trot out to excuse their bloat might have some merit for the Islander peoples.

To what extent do genetics, or epigenetics, play a role in human health over environment and lifestyle? Any honest scientist or doctor will acknowledge that the true answer to that question remains a mystery.

But that role might be larger than many speculate.

Having hung out in Durango, Colorado for a time with a disorderly band of alcoholic natives who had been excommunicated from the nearby Navajo reservation, the drink is a problem for Indians. A big one.

Could this have a genetic component as well, in a similar vein to the Pacific Island obesity thing?

Via The American Journal of Psychiatry (emphasis added):

“Substance dependence has a substantial genetic component in Native Americans, similar in magnitude to that reported for other populations. The high rates of substance dependence seen in some tribes is likely a combination of a lack of genetic protective factors (metabolizing enzyme variants) combined with genetically mediated risk factors (externalizing traits, consumption drive, drug sensitivity/tolerance) that combine with key environmental factors (trauma exposure, early age of onset of use, environmental hardship/contingencies) to produce increased risk for the disorder.”

If and when I relocate to a Pacific Island, which I hope I can manage before the apocalypse to at least get a seaside view to the end of humanity, my diet would consist almost entirely of fish and coconuts and zero KFC or alcohol — a few days ago, June 6, 2024, my own personal D-Day of sorts, marking eight years of sobriety for me, possibly the greatest decision I’ve ever made among a myriad of poor ones.

Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

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