NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Statistics have revealed that 80 per cent of Bahamians are obese, according to Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands, who referred to the figure as “disappointing” and is mainly due to bad lifestyle choices.
The health minister said poor food options have also led to persons contracting diseases such as diabetes and cancer, which he said also places a strain on the public healthcare system.
“The old people say if you like it, let it kill you, and we are doing exactly that,” Dr. Sands said told Eyewitness News in a recent interview, adding that the consumption of sugary and fatty foods has placed Bahamians in a horrible situation as it relates to their health.
“The numbers are staggering,” Dr. Sands said.
“There are more than 100,000 Bahamians with either full-blown diabetes or pre-diabetes; 144,000 with hypertension and more than 80 per cent are obese; not solid, obese,” Dr. Sands said.
Research conducted by Eyewitness News Online revealed that there are more than 50 fast food restaurants on the New Providence and because of this, Dr. Ida Mae Hanna, a registered dietitian said she understands why Bahamians find it hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“People call fast food a meal but it’s not a meal; at least not a balanced meal,” Dr. Hanna said.
“When we talk about a meal, a balanced meal, we must have three to four different components to it. It must have the starch, the protein which is the meat, and then it must have fruits and vegetables.
“Of course, when you’re eating fast food it’s convenient, [but] if a family of four were to buy their chicken and cook it themselves you can get a balanced meal that will cost you less than buying for four persons at a fast food restaurant.
“We need to be moderate, and even if we choose to [eat] the fast food then we can’t do that every day.
“Look at where the fast food restaurants are. They are not in the affluent areas, they petition against it, but they’re in the poorer areas,” Dr. Hanna claimed.
Dr. Hanna said while there are no measures that can be taken to limit the number of fast food restaurants in The Bahamas, he suggested that fast food should be eaten in moderation.
He noted, however, that eliminating processed food is easier said than done.
“There are scientists who deal with the food industry and their job is to find out what excites the pituitary gland and causes you to want to eat these things,” Dr. Hanna explained.
“There are also certain ingredients that they put in the food… It’s a big industry; they have chefs, but they also have scientists who are working behind the scenes and their job is to make sure that the food is what persons can become more addicted to.”
Meanwhile, some major fast-food restaurants have pushed to prove that they are assisting those who choose to eat healthily. Some restaurants are cooking their burgers with 100% fresh beef and some are using freshly diced potato wedges instead of frozen French fries.
Despite this, Dr. Hanna maintains that it’s all about balance.
“If we are going to eat healthy then we need to make sure that we get this balance [eating],” he said.
“At the end of the day, because [fast food] doesn’t have good vital nutrition in there, we are going to be hungry faster and we will end up eating more.”