Diseases can be traced back to sugar and rum, says Boyce

Minister of Health John Boyce believes the high rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean has its origin in the region’s rich sugar and rum heritage.

Addressing a sub-regional workshop Tuesday on the taxation of alcohol, tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages, Boyce acknowledged that both commodities had been at the centre of the region’s social and economic development for generations.

Therefore, he told those gathered at Accra Beach Hotel it was not surprising that Caribbean people had cultivated a strong preference for sugary drinks, or that alcohol consumption was a major part of festive occasions.

“These traditional cultural practices which have evolved over time now pose a major threat to our health and wellbeing and to our very survival in the future, if the current trajectory is not altered,” the minister warned.

He pointed to statistics from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) which showed that heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer were the leading causes of death in the Americas.

However mortality from diabetes and strokes was higher in the Caribbean compared to the rest of the Americas, he explained.

“What is even more worrisome is the fact that more than half of these deaths occur prematurely, or in those aged less than 70 years,” Boyce said.

He said the region was facing an epidemic of NCDs that affected every level of society in some way.

“The burden of NCDs extends beyond what is spent on direct health care costs.  Compared to infectious diseases, NCDs are more likely to reduce productivity by interrupting the ability of individuals to fully participate in the labour force and place major constraints on individuals, their caretakers, and ultimately the state,” he said.

In that regard, Boyce called for a “comprehensive and multi-sectoral” approach to tackling the problem.

“Ministries of health alone are limited in how they can effectively reduce the determinants of NCDs.  A whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach is what is necessary, especially at this time. Solutions to the NCD problem will require improved collaboration and dialogue between Government and industry, academic institutions, health professionals, civil society, labour unions, financing agencies, other Government sectors and the general public,” Boyce stated.

He noted that for many years, health practitioners had been warning the public of the dangers of unhealthy lifestyles, and of the need to reduce high consumption of salt, sugar and alcohol, and to desist from smoking tobacco. However, he further cautioned that health education alone was not enough to effect behavioural change.

Boyce welcomed Tuesday’s deliberations on the application of taxes on alcohol, tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages as one effective measure to reduce consumption.

“While the evaluation of our own experience here in Barbados with the tax on sugar sweetened beverages is still ongoing, I believe that the imposition of such a tax sends a strong signal to the population and to the world of our willingness to take action to address the root causes of the obesity problem that we are tackling.”

The Government spokesman acknowledged that such measures would be met with opposition from some quarters. However, he stressed that the State’s role was to protect the health and well-being of citizens.

“Therefore we must use whatever legal and policy measures are at our disposal to make it easier for people to choose a healthy snack, to eat in a smoke-free environment in a restaurant, or for our children to have access to healthy meals in and around schools,” he said.

He reiterated his ministry’s plans to set policy options to address the marketing of unhealthy foods to children at school, including a ban on the sale and promotion of sugar-sweetened drinks on school premises. Those measures will be considered by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on NCDs and subsequently, the full Cabinet, Boyce said.

18 Responses to Diseases can be traced back to sugar and rum, says Boyce

  1. Sharon Taylor
    Sharon Taylor May 17, 2017 at 3:51 am

    Tell that to big pharma and d doctors that treating us!. Does treat ppl and forget to tell them that sugar feeds cancer! I wonder if u John Boyce know d statistics for cancer in Bim! PPL children dying from cancer! All because wunna so in bed wid big pharma! But wunna pun dis sweet drink hype, and d ppl still feeding dem families macaroni pie and bake chicken… Almost daily bajans does eat pasta or white rice daily… But sweet drinks alone is d culprit wunna claim! Man crawl back in ya duncy hole and finish sleep!

    • Jennifer May 17, 2017 at 4:56 am

      @sharon Taylor – well said. Not to mention that a lot of those white foods are GM and very bad for people. White rice, white pasta, white sugar, salt, white potatoes, white flour, milk, msg, aspartame etc.

    • Ras Small
      Ras Small May 17, 2017 at 8:40 am

      Gud one!!!
      Da know um ain’t now start and now wanna play columbus.

    • Sharon Taylor
      Sharon Taylor May 17, 2017 at 8:57 am

      One of our main problems is the fact that big pharma has placed epsom salts in the poisonous category… So we no longer give our children an epsom salts flush on d weekend to clean their colon… But we feed them more crap than we ourselves were fed as children…. There starts our problem, lots of clogged up crap in our intestines going nowhere, no time soon! Sweet drinks were a stable long before some of these politicians were outta primary school… My aunt used to drink 4 and 5 cream soda bims and banana bims when I was growing up! She is now in her 70s and going strong! My mother was a more health conscious person, she dead and gone! Hmmmmm

      • Jennifer May 17, 2017 at 12:08 pm

        @Sharon Taylor – When a woman is experiencing high blood pressure in pregnancy the first drug she is given in the UK is Magnesium sulphate aka epsom salts. These traditional things to keep one healthy is being pull down for newer drugs which is killing us. And all the lot of meds bandits in bed together. We as a people need to do our own reading and become our own health advocates.

      • gaza May 18, 2017 at 6:24 pm

        salts are not bad ur body need salts its the processed (white salts) that are bad but doctors never tell u that ur body runs on electricity hence salts are very important. sea-moss and pink Himalayan salts are essential

    • gaza May 18, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      i have never read a better comment of this website well said Sharon

  2. James Franks May 17, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Too the many overweight and obese citizens of Barbados.

    Move more ,eat less and introduce better food choices into your diet together with less alcohol !!

  3. Claire Battershield
    Claire Battershield May 17, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Correct Shari ,it just didn’t start yesterday .Education ,education ,education .It is more than the sugar , its all the other things around us that will do us in sooner than later will .Stop using that to justify other agendas

    • gaza May 18, 2017 at 6:27 pm

      sugar is the worst tho, they are not wrong about that, all the other foods ppl mention like the pie ect or bad mainly because they are high in sugar as well

  4. Alex Alleyne May 17, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Take a trip down to the MOUNT GAY RUM building and tourist center /attraction on Spring Garden H/WY and take a close look at the drawings on the outside of the buildings. There you will see the faces of some of our BLACK people with a “Classic Rum Face”.
    Still we “fire a grog” at will.

  5. Earlyn Shuffler May 17, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Bajans really like to talk but tell me when we will see a “Plan of action” with time lines to get something done about the many problems we know already.

    We have the highest level of obesity and diabetes in the Caribbean, which is being caused primarily by the fast food industry. They are using synthetic oils, which clog people’s arteries by depositing an excess of omega 6 fatty acids in their bodies. This imbalance of omega 6 contribute to blocked arteries, leading to diabetes and an increase in fat deposits, leading to obesity. Need I say more.

    Sweeten drinks contribute to obesity but we did not have the level of diabetes and obesity that we now have, until people started making fast foods (soaked in synthetic oils) a daily part of their diets. Last year, the hospital published statistics showing that Barbados had over 50% of admissions, that were diabetic or pre-diabetic. Did people take notice of that???

    Its time to look at more than sweetened drinks.

    People need to stop consuming the BAD stuff and add great nutrition to their diets, if they want to be healthy

    • gaza May 18, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      5 stars for that sir

  6. Othneal May 18, 2017 at 8:39 am

    I grew up in Barbados in the sixties. My grandmother died on the day I was born. I was told that she had perfect she had perfect teeth when she died, testimony to a good wholesome diet. Diabetes however, contributed to my beloved grandmother’s death.
    Statistically, Indians from the Indian subcontinent, African Americans and African Caribbeans have a predisposition to developing diabetes, glaucoma, prostate cancer etc.
    Of course, diet might be a contributing factor, but it is not the whole story.
    So let us consider what these groups have in common. Did you notice that native Africans appear not to have this predisposition.
    All the others have a history of subjection to oppression and brutality.
    Recent genetic research has proved that such experiences in children can have pathological affects​ at a genetic level.
    The affects of slavery may have affected us in ways we can’t even imagine. A fascinating subject of research for a UWI student perhaps.

    • dr sebi May 18, 2017 at 6:33 pm

      you sound so silly not one has a predisposition to any NCD only thing that is hereditary are ppl cooking habits u need to do some research and change ur diet silly rabbit

  7. gaza May 18, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    wanna dont want to make weed legal but all of u’ll or sugar loving dunkies that will die slow

  8. dr sebi May 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    marijuana oil cure cancer but silly bajans let ppl convince them a plant that grows from a tree is a drug. die slow dont complain

  9. colin hyde May 21, 2017 at 9:59 am

    ‘sedentarism’ is the root cause of obesity. Of course we should temper our love for sugar and rum.


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