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Going vegan: Solution to AmSam’s obesity problem?

An international organization has suggested to the Department of Health that the territorial government consider a plant-based diet — a vegetarian diet — to tackle American Samoa’s obesity problem.


The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia Pacific’s Australia office says American Samoa “has the dubious distinction of having the world’s fattest population”. PETA’s call for a plant-based diet—or ‘going vegan’ —was outlined in a letter this week to Health director Motusa Tuileama T. Nua.


Jason Baker, vice president of International Operations for PETA Australia wrote the letter to Motusa.


“According to statistics released by the World Health Organization, American Samoa has been officially ranked the fattest population in the world—with estimates of obesity rates as high as 94 percent,” wrote Baker.


As the director of public health for American Samoa, “you are in a position to help combat this problem by recommending that the public adopt a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet,” Baker said and noted that PETA Australia has “launched a new vegetarian/vegan starter kit that we believe can help. Vegans are, on average, fitter, trimmer, and healthier than meat-eaters are.”


“Going vegan would mean that the people of American Samoa would lead healthier, happier lives and also save the lives of a huge number of animals every year,” said Baker in an international news release announcing the letter sent to Motusa.


“No one enjoys being fat, and going vegan would help residents get a handle on their weight problem in the most delicious ways imaginable,” he said in the news release, which also states that a meat and dairy-based diet has been linked to a host of life-threatening ailments, including obesity.


In the letter, Baker said the U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics concluded that vegetarians “have lower body mass indices than non-vegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.”


“Cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of mortality in American Samoa, is largely preventable with a plant-based diet,” said Baker.


He also pointed out that young people are especially at risk from the complications of obesity. Additionally, studies have found that once children or adolescents become overweight, they are less likely to return to a healthy weight, and even children as young as two years old can show symptoms of heart disease.


“This finding is particularly worrying for American Samoa, where studies have shown that 23 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls are obese by 15 months of age,” he said.


PETA’s vegetarian/vegan starter kit is packed with recipes, nutrition information, and shopping tips to help guide the territory’s people through the transition to a healthier diet, according to the letter.


“By accepting our offer to promote a vegan/vegetarian diet, you’d be giving your people a chance to live longer, healthier lives and would also be giving your population a chance to lose its reputation as the fattest in the world,” said Baker.


Motusa was informed that a copy of the vegetarian/vegan starter kit is on the way to the director via mail and PETA looks forward to hearing back from Motusa on this matter.


On its organization’s website to order a free vegetarian/vegan starter kit, PETA asked, “Did you know that you could save many animals per year just by adopting a meat-free diet? That's right – going vegetarian saves lives! And if that's not appealing enough, it's easy, too!”


According to PETA, “animals are NOT ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any way.”


Asked for comment, Motusa says he has not yet received the letter, adding he would like to know more information. (Samoa News forwarded to the director the copy of the letter which was provided by PETA Australia following our request.)