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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (February 19, 2002 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---The World Health Organization says obesity remains a major health problem in Pacific Islands countries and elsewhere in the Western Pacific because of the increased consumption of fatty and refined foods.

In its January 2002 newsletter, the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office said the problem had become so serious that in Singapore, for example, efforts to fight it now are part of the schools’ curricula.

Tonga, according to WHO, has basically abandoned its traditional diet of root crops, fish and vegetables in favor of higher fat foods.

People also are less physically active today than in the past when farming was common, WHO added.

In the Northern Marianas, the Department of Public Health said obesity and associated diseases remain major health problems.

Aside from complications and associated diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart attack, sleep apnea syndrome and renal disease, obesity also leads to psycho-social problems. This results in increased workplace sick leave, lower productivity, depression and higher health care costs.

WHO cited a study which found that women who are obese at 18 years and continue to put on weight in adulthood are 70 times more likely to develop diabetes than those who remain lean.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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