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Processed Meat May Be Killing More Bahamians Than Crime
By Diane Phillips & Associates
Mar 18, 2016 - 2:45:57 PM

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Arlington Lightbourne, MD

Bahamas boasts the 10th highest meat consumption rate per capita in the world


For hundreds of years Bahamians were fishers and farmers. Their faces shone with the kind of radiance that only comes from lungs filled with fresh air and hands and feet that touch the earth on a daily basis.

“Food is something that we were born into,” said Dr. Arlington Lightbourne, owner of the Nassau-based Wellness Clinic. “We were exposed to these things without having any say in the matter.”

Today, however, Lightbourne said marketing drives food choices over salt air and sunshine, particularly when it comes to the highly processed meats found at fast food restaurants.

“The pictures of the burgers are beautifully coloured and you can see the smoke coming off of them,” he said. “We have a food industry that is a trillion-dollar industry. Their focus is on making money. They are not sitting in a boardroom thinking, ‘What is the healthiest food?’ These people are not interested in our well-being. Their focus is on profit, not on health. It’s all about money ultimately and that is understandable. It is what they are about but it does not produce good health results.”

Despite being a small consumer of meat on an absolute scale, The Bahamas boasts the 10th highest meat consumption rate per capita in the world—around 98 kilograms per year (about 216 pounds) —a staggering number when you consider meat consumption should only comprise about 25% of total daily calories consumed.

“Highly processed meat like hot dogs and sausages and meats that are smoked are filled with MSG and nitrates,” Lightbourne said. “Those things have been proven to be highly addictive.”

Which is why Lightbourne said processed meats are one of the largest contributing factors to the high rate of chronic disease such as diabetes in The Bahamas along with consumption of sugar, gluten and dairy. As a point of reference, Lightbourne cites

“The China Study,” a book written in 2005 based on a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine that showed a direct relationship between high consumption of animal-based foods and chronic disease.

“It’s the largest human study ever done to look at the negative consequences of meat,” Lightbourne said. “Societies with less meat intake have significantly less cancer and longer lifespans.”

“Physicians must take the lead. If we talk about health and wellness we have to walk the talk, walk the message if we’re telling people about health and wellness. We should be setting the example,” he said. “I can’t say I don’t indulge in a steak once in a blue moon, but I think that’s the key, I have to think of the long-term health effects.”

Lightbourne recognizes that long-term thinking about daily diet plans don’t happen overnight.

“Wellness is a journey and requires steps,” he said. “I don’t expect you to be from ground level to ceiling in one step. Celebrate the milestones so you don’t become discouraged.”

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