SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Oct. 19) - One in every three school kids in the Commonwealth is overweight, bringing the risk of diabetes and other related disease at the early stage, CNMI nutritionists disclosed yesterday.

Northern Marianas College's nutrition experts Lisa Benavente and Pat Coleman told CNMI Diabetes Prevention and Control Program conference-Understanding diabetes, it's all about balance- participants that school-age children are overweight due to their heavy consumption of chips, cookies, and candies.

Because of the increasing number of diabetes cases in the CNMI, the Northern Marianas ranks No. 2 around the world with the most cases of diabetes and other related diseases.

According to the two nutritionists, heavy consumption of soda, fruit juices, and by-product food items contribute largely to the increasing number of obesity in the Northern Marianas.

To demonstrate how canned goods and processed products affect one's physical appearance and its ill effects to the body, Coleman and Benavente broke calories intake down to simple forms.

"One soda commensurate to 18 tablespoons of sugar or nine cups of coffee. A luncheon meat contains one spoonful of salt and 18 tablespoons of fat," they explained during a cooking demonstration.

The cooking demonstration is part of the whole-day activities at the Diabetes Summit, which also tackled effective exercises to reduce the risk of hypertension and obesity. Guam's Marianas Footcare Clinic podiatric Dr. Teresa Damian discussed foot problems, care of the feet, and other foot concerns relating to diabetes.

Also, Department of Public Health nutritionist Jill Vanderkin discussed the importance of proper nutrition, particularly to diabetes patients.

The Diabetes conference was held to raise awareness against the increasing cases of obesity and diabetes-related ailments in the Commonwealth. Based on statistics, at least 2,272 people in CNMI have been diagnosed with diabetes-1,150 are Chamorros and 252 are Carolinians.

As such, organizers of yesterday's Diabetes Summit gave a major emphasis on proper nutrition among diabetes patients-beginning with the day's fish and vegetable breakfast and lunch menu for conference participants.

In the CNMI, Vanderkin said that more than 50 percent of the local population either has diabetes or is prone to the disease, placing the two indigenous groups-Carolinians and Chamorros-No. 3 and No. 4 in world ranking.

She further noted that diabetes, one of the leading causes of deaths in the CNMI, is now being discovered among younger people, including children.

Vanderkin explained that diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot control the amount of sugar in the blood and its two chief culprits are bad eating habits and lack of exercise.

She said most of the foods in the CNMI-usually sourced off-island-are heavily processed, which means they contain a lot of fat and salt. These, she said, are the ingredients for obesity, heart problems, high-blood pressure and other chronic health problems. Preventing these problems, which are linked to diet and exercise, is crucial to fighting diabetes.

Other speakers in the conference included former Saipan Tribune publisher John Del Rosario on "Living with Diabetes," Lynn Corella of the Community Guidance Center, and Konrad Reyes of Guam Diabetes Association.

October 20, 2003

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