CARIBBEAN: High rate of diabetes and hypertension in Caribbean linked to history of slavery And colonisation – Beckles

CARIBBEAN: High rate of diabetes and hypertension in Caribbean linked to history of slavery And colonisation – Beckles
Sir Hilary

HilaryBecklesB20160515NGJAMAICA GLEANER – That there is a high rate of diabetes in the Caribbean and a continued increase in the non-communicable disease among Caribbean nationals does not come as a surprise to vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles.

While officially opening the second staging of the World Family Doctor Day Conference, put on by the Caribbean College of Family Physicians at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew yesterday, Beckles did not miss the opportunity to share historical musings on the conference theme regarding non-communicable diseases.

“We know that when we go behind the conversation about inactivity, diet, changing lifestyles and the narrative that says these are the causes of hypertension and diabetes, the historians would say that we have to historicise the problem and look back at what obtained in plantation society,” he told the gathering of doctors.

Drawing on his vast mental catalogue of 18th- and 19th-century records of numerous slave plantations across the region, Beckles argued that the staple diet of the slaves would have pointed to a diabetes pandemic within the region.

“If you take a people and you entrap them on sugar plantations for 300 years and you feed them sugar every day, and you tell them they must eat what they grow and what they grow is sugar, and every day they are eating sugar and on top of that you feed them on salt fish and salt pork every single day for all of their lives … what do you expect?” he asked.



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  1. A typical Caribbean plate of food is a banquet feast: a variety of carbohydrates instead of a variety of vegetables with meat taking up a third of a large plate instead of one piece of meat (for example a chicken leg) and vegetables are simply for garnish (a few slices of cucumber and tomato). This is washed down with a tumbler of fruit juice or sugared drinks. If the person is sedentary and does not exercise, this is a serious recipe for diabetes. This banquet of carbs has been handed down through the generation and is the norm. No one examines his/her diet until diagnosed with diabetes and that's too late! With the high prevalence of diabetes, we need to ask. do the average St Lucian or African Caribbean know how to eat to be healthy? I think not.

    Beckles will cause rancour, harking back to our slave origin to ram home the truth that our diet: high in sugars and salt has a historical legacy. Some people cannot entertain the thought that a slave cultural dietary pattern is alive and kicking in their so called modern civilise mind. What we need is an open mind and an educational drive towards dietary awareness, healthy portions, lower salt consumption and regular exercise. With awareness and applied knowledge these non-communicable diseases are preventable.


  2. These people with doctorates in the Caribbean believe that a doctorate confers a license to speak definitively on every subject under the sun. How do doctorates in History enable definitive statements on matters regarding medicine, but with no related empirical support and with no control group? What is up next?
    Is it Rocket science? Or is it that the Hubble Telescope in Outer Space is creating drought conditions down here in the Caribbean?


  3. Where is the research? Therefore, does diet changes genetic make-up in 300 years?

    This must be evolution on an overdose of steroids. Is this published in a medical journal? Has historical coincidence now replaced or has become medical science at the University of the West Indies? Is this the black version of social media's famous Donald Trump of the US?


    • Evolutionary Adaptations to Dietary Changes


  4. In partial agreement with Sir Hilary Beckles comments, the diet of our ancestors may have contributed to the high incidence of families with inherited genes susceptible to diabetes. However, it does not explain the high number of individuals with diabetes due to their life style. Our African roots is also responsible for the perception of some that a heavy person is wealth or successful.


  5. As far as Dr Beckes is concerned, all problems in the Caribbean are due to slavery and colonization. Whether that is true or not, it is up to us to solve our problems now, and stop looking for scapegoats.


  6. These fairy tale academics in their ivory towers especially the historians are so full of it. If the foolish population has bad dietary habits, slavery is responsible? Where the hell is the populations' knowledge, ingenuity and innovative spirit?

    I believe that slavery is responsible for this piece of crap that is being published here. See? The speaker still has a slave mentality. He has not yet been liberated from talking slave-minded crap yet. Hey old fella, it is the 21st century already.


    • Masters fed slaves the cheapest crap they could. It was a for-profit business. That included a lot of staples we continue to eat. Ground provisions et al. Those are starch bombs. Starch = sugars = carbohydrates. You people need to educate yourselves. Diabetes is the inability of the body to regulate insulin, which is necessary to break down those starches/carbs/sugars. Those need to be broken down to convert to energy. Energy comes primarily from carbohydrates. Have you ever seen a typical lunch plate in St. Lucia. Rice = Carbs, Dasheen = Carbs. Plantain = Carbs. Yam = Carbs. Mac and Cheese = Carbs. Hardly any vegetables.

      Too much carbs and not using those carbs for intended purpose leads to diabetes. You sit your behind at a desk all day at work. You load up on carbs. Hence diabetes. It might not have been a problem for salves as they constantly worked and used up all those carbs. It is a problem now. Ergo, the man is right. Vestiges of slave diet and slavery continue to haunt us.


      • Show me the slaves? Where are the slaves. You sing a national anthem. You hoist a racist white supremacy arrangement on your flag. I did not design it.

        Moreover, this is not the 15, the 16, the 17, the 18, nor the 19 hundreds. Where are those dumb slaves of which you speak?

        It is 2016. Who the hell is in charge of the destiny of today's people? The slave plantation owners? Is it the absentee tobacco and sugar plantation owners?

        Why don't you idiots get a life? Educate yourselves on what is proper nutrition and grow your own food. Stop using slavery as a crutch for your blatant ignorance, downright stupidity and a lack of vision. Stop airing your usual jackass drivel and gross self-commiseration as superior logic.


    • this guy never cease to amaze me with his crap. beckles, its linked to a diet. today. rum and chicken. fry this, fry that. lowest level of inactivity.


  7. But St.Lucia will be having a diabetes research centre, so they might debunk what you are saying.
    Their objective is to find out what causes diabetes in the Caribbean. You should have really saved yourself the trouble.
    Speak to Alvina, she will give you some insight.


    • I think you will be surprised to know that it is already known what causes diabetes in the Caribbean. The "diabetes research centre" that you speak of will only be there to test people for the disease and to instruct the populace on how to prevent it. Mr Beckles - and others - have already done all the research, the onus now is to KNOW how to deal with it, and how to prevent it. Yes, we do eat too many carbs which results in too much sugar in the body - everybody should know that. Alvina has been fooling you - do your own research, it is easy.


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