Tonga is a country of 100,000 people, located in the Pacific islands. It has a reputation of being the country with the most obese people in the world, with nearly 40% of the people suffering from type 2 diabetes - the BBC reports. The cause of their health problem? Mutton flaps, imported directly from New Zealand.
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Mutton flap is more or less the underbelly of a sheep, a fatty kind of meat that is cheap in Tonga, and which the population has now embraced – leaving behind their traditional fish staple, root vegetables, and coconut – any edible food that you can find on a Pacific island.
Since the mid-20th century, Tonga began consuming a lot of mutton flaps imported from New Zealand and turkey tails imported from the US, a new kind of unhealthy food that has now taken the island country by storm.
Rather than rely on their traditional fish and root vegetables and coconut for food, fishermen now spear fish and sell it off to buy mutton flaps, something the aged population of the country think is uncultural and unhealthy for the people.
Health experts say 100g of mutton flap is made up of 40g fat – half of it unsaturated, with 420 calories. Little wonder almost everybody in Tonga is overweight and obese, with nearly half the population suffering from type 2 diabetes.
"There's this whole generation in Tonga that was brought up on mutton flaps," said Sunia Soakai, a health planning officer for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. "Mutton flaps are the discarded parts of the lamb that are not fit for consumption in New Zealand. They were able to dump this stuff on the Pacific countries."
Another problem in Tonga is that the people naturally associate being big and fat as a sign of wellness and wealth, linking thinness of body with hunger. Tongan King Tupou IV held the Guinness record for being the heaviest-ever monarch, weighing 200kg, or 33 stone or 44-lbs. He died in 2006.
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In order to curb the rising rate of diabetes in the country and deal with the problems of obesity, the people of Tonga need to revert back to their traditional food of fish and vegetables, while also doing away with the new craze of consuming large quantities of soda imported into the country, instead of the natural water they are used to.