Guyana’s population is slowly being overtaken by a high number of obese people. This is the
view of Deputy Chief Medical Officer, (DCMO) Dr Karen Boyle.
At a recent meeting, Dr Boyle highlighted information related to the practice of people of the Americas, in purchasing genetically modified foods and vegetables.
She noted that foods purchased at farmers’ markets are more expensive than those purchased at regular locations. Farmers’ markets are usually located in affluent areas whereby depressed communities would see persons purchase foods from those regular locations.
According to her the foods found in the latter are the ones which have been genetically modified to look good, hence they are bigger and seem to last longer. This is so because of the different chemicals that would have been added. She explained that the foods which are much cheaper are sold in the poorer environments and are very unhealthy.
“Guyana is fast adapting the lifestyle of the West and not learning from their mistakes. Chronic diseases are the top five causes of death in Guyana and the treatment of them consume 70% of the treatment project. What this means then, is that persons who are living in poorer environments are far more likely to have an unhealthy diet, they are far more likely to be unhealthy, similarly in the poorer neighbourhoods, at almost every corner you are going to find a fast food restaurant,” according to Dr. Boyle.
She explained, “These foods are usually tasty, they are usually cheaper. For the women coming from those areas, it is not uncommon for a woman to have two to three jobs to sustain and feed her family. When she is finished working these jobs and comes home, food that is fast and that the children would not reject becomes necessary. It is then that business storms in at fast food locations”.
She compared this type of lifestyle to those who live in the more affluent areas, pointing out that they would dine at prestigious restaurants which would offer meals for those seeking a balanced diet, hence being healthier.
A walk through depressed locations would reflect a community of obese and unhealthy people according to her.
She said that it is the goal of the Public Health Ministry for our country to not become like this, and she hopes that the ongoing sensitization would make a difference. The official took time to expound on the many hormones which are injected into cows as well.
“Hormones which are injected under the skin of cows help them to produce more milk but expose the cow to health issues caused by engorged breasts, resulting in cracked nipples. The cows are eventually administered anti-bacteria which humans consume unconsciously.” This, Dr Boyle explained, develops “resistance in humans”, which causes the anti-bacteria that people consume to not work.
In the meeting, natural sweeteners were advised, since foods that are high in sugar cause blood sugar levels to spike and at the same time cause insulin to spike so as to “take care of that extra sugar”. It was explained that insulin causes blood sugar levels to plummet while the insulin remains, resulting in hunger.
The doctor noted that she is isn’t suggesting consumers not use these foods, but rather to be cautious when consuming. Labeling of goods, she said, has to be simpler so as to enable all backgrounds of people to understand what they are consuming.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed a traffic light system of labeling foods which is a simple code that allows the consumer, with little time and least education to be fully equipped to understand and determine which foods are high in salt, which foods are high in sugar or corn syrup.”
The new initiative will have green, red and yellow. The red label may suggest that the food is high in fat, sugar or salts, yellow suggests medium quantity, and green means it is low in these additives. She stated that the Ministry of Public Health is advocating for this initiative to be applied here in Guyana.
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