Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Tale of Two Meats

A cold-blooded killer

In the news we read that Samoa has lifted its ban on the imports of turkey tail, which was implemented in 2007 under the guise of improving public health.

Turkey tail is high in fat, and so its ban should have measurably improved the health outcomes of Samoans, right? Was anyone prescient enough to begin a longitudinal study to examine this question? Here we had, in essence, a government-sponsored clinical study handed to us on a plaited coconut-leaf platter, and what have we seen?

What's interesting to me is that fat alone is unlikely the culprit of the Samoans' high obesity rates. Samoans always had a fatty diet from the abundance of coconut milk they consume. (And coconut fat is primarily saturated fat, no less.)

So why single out turkey tail (and, apparently, mutton flaps) for regulation, and not, say, soda, which in Samoa comes in 750 mL bottles, or other sources of refined carbohydrate? 

(Don't get me wrong, I'm not in favor of using the strong arm of the government to ban any foods, fatty or sugary. Government intervention has hardly solved our nutrition problems in the United States, I doubt that model is going to work elsewhere.)

If we look at the transition in Samoans' diet from traditional to modern, it's the combination of high fat with high refined carbohydrate intake--and not the fat per se--that is likely the culprit.

Turkey tail and mutton flaps are merely nutritional scapegoats, easy targets for nutritional activists, and not the actual cause--as is claimed--of Samoans' (and other Pacific Islanders') health woes.

Likely a celebration of the return of turkey tail and mutton flap to Samoa

(Photo credits: Jules Food and NiuZila)


1 comment:

Whitney Hardie said...

Ha! Well written. I heard about this on NPR and it definitely had me thinking of you. Glad to see you weigh in on the subject.