Diet culture you become accustomed to those eating habits.

 

Diet and Obesity in Different
Cultures

Alexandria L. Fox

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University Wisconsin Eau Claire

 

Abstract

This paper “Diet and
Obesity in Different Cultures” is going discuss various cultures and their
battle with obesity. One culture that specifically suffered from obesity was the
Pima tribe. Their obesity is the result of some unforeseen circumstances. The
Nauru people suffer from obesity due to changes in their habitat and access to
goods. The Americans obesity is the result of comfortable habits, poverty
level, and limited access to fresh grown fruit and vegetables. When someone
moves to America does it affect their diet and health, or does their cultural
background play a role in their health?

Introduction

            The topic of this paper discusses the cultural
differences between various cultures pertaining to their diet and how it
affects their health. Different cultures follow different eating habits and
traditions with factors related to region, family beliefs, and social class. Sometimes
uncontrollable factors play a role in a cultures health habits as well. According
to the Webster dictionary Obesity is defined as “a condition that is
characterized by excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body and that
in an adult is typically indicated by a body mass index of 30 or greater.”

 

Review
of the literature

            When you are raised in a specific culture you become
accustomed to those eating habits. Whether it be grandma’s eggrolls, mom’s mac
and cheese, dad’s Italian meatballs, or your aunt’s famous Baklava. Some of the
foods are healthier than others. Also different cultural backgrounds can play a
factor in predisposed health risks. For example, according to Lamb “African-Americans
and many Southerners are at greater risk for ailments such as heart disease and
diabetes, but Southern-style fried foods, biscuits and ham hocks might not be
the only culprits. Income levels, limited access to healthier foods and
exercise habits might play a role as well.” (Lamb)

Obesity
is a worldwide epidemic, it doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, or race.
Children younger and younger are diagnosed with obesity every day. Obesity is
not a new phenomenon, it has affected people of all time eras. The Arizona Pima
people suffered from obesity back in the 1900s just the same as Americans do
today. As people became more financially well off in the mid -1990s, an
epidemic of overeating came about. People had a more expendable income to spend
on aggressively marketed foods that are high in energy and low in nutritional
value. The US became known as a toxic environment worldwide. There are fast
food restaurant around every corner, and a bag of potato chips is more convent
and  cheaper than a bag of apples. Many
cultures experience obesity even without having expendable income and eating
things like cheeseburgers and soft drinks. The overeating hypothesis says these
populations should be as lean as can be, but they are not. Several poor and
famished populations are obese; it’s not how much they’re eating; it’s what
they are eating.

            For example, the Native American tribe, the Pima, has the
highest incidence of obesity and diabetes in the US. The Pima have a history of
obesity. They were underfed, undernourished and obese due to their diets that
are rich in carbohydrates. The Pima were advanced for the times and had trading
posts of flour, sugar, coffee and canned goods. The Pima people have
participated in many medical studies including studies conducted on type two
Diabetes, and obesity. The Pima of Arizona are decedents of the ancient
Hohokam. They later became further separated and a Pima reservation was created
in Arizona where a majority of Pima people resided.

The
Pima people had to adapt to the deserts agricultural challenges by creating a
vast irrigation system. With this system they were able to grow crops like
corn, beans, squash and even cotton. Life was going well for the Pima people
until around the 1900s when the white peoples population increased so much that
it hindered the water irrigation system the Pima’s had in place. This lead to a
devastating impact on not only their agriculture, but also their entire way of
life.

The
Pima’s went from spending long hours in their fields harvesting goods and being
very physically active to almost no physical labor and chronic famine. The Pima’s
diet consisted of a high amount of fats. With the combination of a high fat
diet and little exercise the Pima people ultimately became obese, but they were
still severely malnourished. They developed diseases such as type two Diabetes
and heart disease at an alarming fast rate. “A study initiated in 1965
documented in the Arizona Pima Indians the highest prevalence of diabetes ever
recorded.” (Schulz) Modern medicine can thank the Pima tribe for a large
majority of the advances made in type two diabetes and obesity.

Some
cultures, like the people who reside on the Nauru island, believe that obesity
is beautiful. 71% of the population is obese, with 91% of the men who reside on
the island being obese. Nauru was a very prosperous country, it was actually
known as one of the wealthiest countries in the 1970’s, but by the 20th
century that all changed. Nauru went from being one of the wealthiest countries
to one of the most obese countries in the world.

Before
the Nauru people became wealthy they lived an average life where people worked
and made decent wages. Their diets consisted of fruit, coconut, root
vegetables, and fish. Then some time later they discovered Phosphate was in
their land. They began to sell off their land to Phosphate miners. The miners
were from other countries like Australia and the US. They then started to have
cheap processed food shipped in for the miners because that is what they were
accustomed to eating, but the Nauru people enjoyed it as well. Eventually the
mining was so bad the land became inhabitable by humans. If the land was
uninhabitable, then you defiantly could not use it agriculturally.

Because
of the Phosphate mining many people became very wealthy. They quit their jobs
and started to live a sedentary life style. They had so much money at one point
they were using dollar bills as toilet paper. According to Wood “Nauruans see
obesity as a sign of wealth, an indication that you don’t need to work
physically to get by. In a society that, until fairly recently, relied heavily
on the physical labor of its inhabitants, a sedentary lifestyle is something
admirable, something to which one should aspire” (Wood)

 The cause of this obesity epidemic within the
Nauru country has many factors. One of them being an outside culture came in
and made a huge impact on the Nauru lifestyle that will affect them for years
to come. If you remember the Pima people also suffered from obesity due to
outside forces invading their land, which resulted in a detrimental outcome of
their health. Healthy resources became limited for both of these cultures, and
thus they began eating large amounts of processed foods and living sedentary
lifestyles.

When
you hear people talk about the American diet, you generally do not hear good
things. When people think of the typical American diet they think of McDonalds,
Pizza, and other unhealthy food. According to Mokdad “Obesity continues to
increase rapidly in the United States.” (Mokada) Though wanting to lose weight
through diet and exercise is popular in the US, a clear majority of Americans
are overweight.

America
has many resources for overweight individuals like public health groups, gyms,
(with one in almost every town),  and
even companies who will send portion control healthy meals straight to your door.
With all these resources available in the US you would think the obesity
epidemic would be on the downfall. Many factors play into the blame for
Americas obesity problem like poverty, fast passed life styles, and convince.

            Americans eat a large quantity of
carbohydrates which in result causes a spike in their blood sugar and insulin
which causes their bodies to store fat. Carbohydrates are easily accessible
through fast food restaurants, and processed foods carried in grocery stores.
Many foods high in carbs can be significantly cheaper than fresh fruit and
vegetables. With Americans aspiring to live such fast-paced lifestyles, they are
looking for fast grab-n-go options which in result poses a challenge to cooking
healthy meals at home. Along with these problems a lot of unhealth food is labeled
as healthy food thus fooling Americans into believing they are leading healthy
life styles when in truth they are doing more harm to their body than good.

Not
all foods that contain carbohydrates have an equal effect on our bodies. The
most fattening carbohydrates are the ones that are easily digestible such as
foods containing refined flour (bread, noodles, cereal, etc.), liquid
carbohydrates (juice, beer, etc.) and starches (rice, potatoes, etc.) These
foods enter the bloodstream quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike. Foods
that contain complex carbohydrates, such as spinach and vegetables, are wrapped
in fiber and take longer for us to digest and do not cause a large blood sugar
spike thus, making them less fattening. The worst carbohydrates for us are
sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is also found in fruits and is
especially fattening. The longer we have fructose diet the more likely we are
to develop fatty diseases. Even through there are 24 hours in a day many Americans
do not ‘have enough time’ for their health. With a gym around every corner you
would think more Americans would make the time to benefit their health, but if
more American participated in gyms would that make a significant impact on
their weight? Exercise has several benefits including reducing the risk of diabetes
or heart disease.

Statistics
say that the poorer we are, the fatter we’re likely to be. The poor often work
the jobs that are filled with hard labor (exercise). On average, they likely
burn more calories than the average American, yet they are more likely to be
obese. The 1970s is when Americans began to believe that they needed to
exercise. In 1977, the US was consumed in an exercise explosion. Very little
evidence exists saying that the number of calories we expend has any effect on
the amount of fat that we burn. The USDA states that 90 minutes of exercise per
day may be helpful in maintaining weight loss. If people wanted to remain lean,
they would have to add additional exercise on every week, eventually building
up to an unreasonable amount. This exercise assumption is based on the fact
that people who exercise tend to be less fat than those who do not. If lack of
exercise and calorie intake are not the reason for this obesity epidemic, what
is?

            When someone moves to North America
from another country how long does it take them to be considered part of the
American culture? For example, in Japan, breast cancer is rare but when
Japanese women move to America and adopt an American diet, it only takes two
generations for their descendants to experience the same breast-cancer rates as
other American ethnic groups. A western diet is considered large amounts of
meat, processed foods, sugar and calories including very few vegetables, fruits
and whole grains. Americans are also considered to be sedentary beings.

 

Summary
and Conclusion

Overall culture plays a
huge role in our diet. When people are immersed into a new culture, and diet,
their bodies reap the changes. When people come to America their body ‘catch
up’ to the American bodies. For example, they develop heart disease and
diabetes at the same rate of Americans after only two generations. When people
move to America they are not only adapting to the eating habits of Americans,
but also the sedentary lifestyle. Cultural background still plays a roll in
Americans health though. For example, African Americans are at a higher risk to
developing heart disease. In conclusion I think there are many factors that
play a roll in someone’s diet and health. I think their cultural background
plays a roll, but I think that their eating habits they have developed from
where they reside have a more significant impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

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Brownell, K. D., & Horgen, K. B. (2004). Food fight: The
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Foster, S., & Kiste, R. C. (2017, December 06). Nauru. Retrieved
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Lamb, L. H. (2017, August 14). How Culture Affects Diet. Retrieved
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Mokdad AH, Serdula MK,
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Schulz, L. O., &
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Wood, K. (2016, March
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