By Mickella Anderson-Gordon
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Concern is being raised by minister of health and wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, about the rise in the consumption of ultra-processed foods by Jamaicans, including children. Speaking recently at a public health lecture at the University of Technology (UTech), Dr Tufton urged Jamaicans to be more mindful of their diets, as “the cost of sickness is not worth the price of ultra-processed food consumption in excess.”
“In Jamaica today, the data is clear – almost 80 percent of us are dying from lifestyle-related diseases – nutrition being a big part of that, and indeed, our mortality rate is now tapering off and heading into a decline,” the minister said.
He said that the turn to ultra-processed foods, which Jamaicans are consuming for convenience and other reasons, is having a ripple effect on the health status of the population, affecting blood sugar, obesity, weight, cholesterol, cardiovascular functions, headache, acne, depression and others.
As a result of this, the minister revealed that more Jamaicans are getting ill and are dying before the age of 75.
Furthermore, in a summary done by the ministry, based on the global school health survey and the Jamaica health and lifestyle survey, it was found that 16 percent of children between 13 and 17 have low fruit and vegetable intake.
Overall, children are consuming more foods that are rich in sodium, including fast foods, thus resulting in high-calorie intakes. In fact, the data revealed that 22 percent of 13 to 17-year-olds have three fast-food meals daily.
“Salts, sugars and fats are the typical menu on our diets, and the consequences of that are likely to follow almost as its natural progression,” the minister warned. He pointed out that using fast food as a way of treating young ones forms a habit that becomes a practice and “the practice has consequences that we have to be concerned about.”
Dr Tufton indicated that the government will continue to drive policies that better guide citizens’ nutrition, with some already being actioned, such as the ban on beverages high in sugar in Jamaican schools.