Kai Māori

Traditional Māori Vegetable Garden 1700

According to Atlansis etal.  Māori and Pacific peoples have been shown to experience two- to fourfold rates of type 2 diabetes as European New Zealanders. Overall, Māori and the Pacific people have poorer blood glucose, blood pressure and blood lipid control with their diabetes. Associated with these are substantially higher rates of end-stage renal disease (with, e.g. up to 25-fold need renal replacement therapy among Māori), diabetic eye disease (including blindness), amputation and cardiovascular disease.

In his home town of Taupo NZ, Rural GP Dr Glen Davies has been prescribing low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet to patients with T2DM with encouraging results. He explains:

“With the exception of Kumera, the traditional Māori diet would have fulfilled the definition of LCHF and combined with the effort of food gathering and preparation was likely ketogenic. It appears the introduction of potato in the 1780s and modern kumera in the 1850s made large changes to food supply.  Māori do particularly well with LCHF and keto as they have been eating that way up until about 150 to 200 years ago, when sugar and flour where introduced. Genetically 200 years is a blink of the eye and certainly not enough time for genetic adaption to happen, while Europeans have had 12,000 years of agriculture to adapt.

One particular Māori community with 177 dwellings, has fully adopted the “Keto Kaupapa” and measure their weight loss in tons. They cater events at the Marae, LCHF. They are growing communal gardens, have cleaned out the stream so watercress is growing and are distributing food using traditional methods. Many community members hunt wild pigs and deer and many are skilled fly fishermen. At the Kura/school, processed food items are replaced with healthy options (Kapai Kai), and the unhealthy food item is sent home.”

Although it is unknown if these changes will prove sustainable, it would appear that promoting a traditional diet in primary care is a step in the right direction. What is your experience with using traditional indigenous diets in a health care setting?

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