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November 18, 1983

Tropical paradox: nutrition in the Caribbean

JAMA. 1983;250(19):2587-2588. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340190007004

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The 13 English-speaking Caribbean nations recently reported an "epidemic" of adult obesity, accompanied by dramatic increases in diabetes and hypertension.

At the same time, these nations—with a population of more than 5 million—continue to be plagued by undernutrition, particularly among children, pointing out how complex the problems of nutrition planning in developing countries can be.

Speaking to the Seventh Western Hemisphere Nutrition Congress held recently in Miami Beach, the Honorable Billie Antoinette Miller, Minister of Education of Barbados (and former Minister of Health), explained that this apparent anomaly has come about as the nations moved from poor "cane field," or solely agricultural, economies into the relative affluence of light industry and tourism—life-styles requiring lower energy output but encouraging higher caloric intake.

A recent Caribbean nations' health survey showed that one of every 17 persons has a history of diabetes, Miller noted, "suggesting that there are probably over 200,000 diabetics in