Strict vegan diet not necessary for all, says local doctor
Dr. Fred Uhrle Jr., a member of the local Non Communicable Disease Coalition, says that while a “strict vegan diet” may be what some patients need, it’s not necessary for all in order to live healthy lives, while House Rep. Larry Sanitoa, also a member of NCD, notes to be wary of the possible ulterior motives of these types of organizations.
Last week the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wrote to Health Department director Motusa Tuileama T. Nua suggesting that American Samoa adopt a plant-based diet to fight obesity. (See Samoa News August 15, 2013 issue)
Vice president of International Operations for PETA Australia, Jason Baker, says it has launched a new vegetarian/vegan starter kit that can help combat obesity, adding that vegans are — on average — fitter, trimmer and healthier than meat-eaters.
Samoa News sent a copy of Baker’s letter to Motusa but there has been no reaction from the health director. A handful of residents who contacted Samoa News after the initial story was published last Thursday say it will be very hard to convince local residents take up a plant-based diet.
DR. UHRLE RESPONSE
Responding to Samoa News inquiries on PETA’s suggestion, Uhrle, a U.S. certified medical doctor, pointed out many studies have shown that vegetarian diets are associated with improved health outcomes, including a reduction in all cause mortality and a reduction in cardiovascular deaths.
“Most are observational studies and provide an association between a vegetarian diet and improved outcomes, but do not provide evidence of a cause and effect,” he explained, adding that many who identified themselves as vegetarians in the studies consumed a variety of foods:
• an ovo-vegetarian eats eggs but no dairy or meat of any kind;
• a lacto-ovo-vegetarian consumes dairy and eggs but no meat;
• pesco vegetarian consumes fish occasionally; and
• lacto vegetarian eats dairy but no eggs or meat
“It is essential that we reduce our intake of added sugars, sodas and other sweetened drinks, processed foods, saturated fat and trans fats, alcohol as well as reduce our total caloric intake,” Uhrle said. “Humans were gatherers even back in Biblical times and ate meat only on occasion. We need to return to that and MOVE our bodies more. Eat more whole grains, vegetables, nuts and legumes.”
He added, “Many diets have shown good clinical outcomes and depend on the patient’s taste, motivation and goals. A strict vegan diet may be what some patients need, but it is not necessary for all in order to live healthy lives.”
REP. LARRY SANITOA RESPONSE
Rep. Larry Sanitoa, who is also a member of the NCD coalition said, “While I can appreciate the concerns of these world organizations in reference to our local health issues, we need to be conscious of the fact that often these organizations have ulterior motives, often for political reasons.”
He pointed out the Health Department and the local NCD Coalition have already presented a draft of the NCD National Plan for American Samoa.
“Critical to its success is for our government and all stakeholders to remain constant in ensuring we are persistent in moving forward with our NCD National Plan,” Sanitoa said over the weekend.
"There are simple and very basic methods that we have already implemented throughout our island community. As we continue to educate and promote a healthier life style, people are learning the importance of keeping physically active either through home and work tasks, or participation in a favorite sport, and placing a priority on eating more balanced meals regularly."
Sanitoa concluded, “Choosing and committing to a healthier lifestyle is ultimately an individual choice that is often predicated by priorities, affordability and available resources. We need to focus on implementing our plan, collecting data and measuring results to maintain continuity.