Oral Presentation Australian Diabetes Society and the Australian Diabetes Educators Association Annual Scientific Meeting 2016

Nutrition and indigenous health: learning from the past and the future (#102)

Kerin O'Dea 1
  1. University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia

When Indigenous Australians lived traditionally they were lean and fit and free of the chronic lifestyle-related diseases that plague them today, including type 2 diabetes and related conditions. The prevalence of these conditions has risen sharply since the early 1980’s and affects disadvantaged Australians most seriously. One of the primary drivers has been the deteriorating quality of the food supply, and the powerful promotional activities of the processed food and beverage industries. It is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes if it is addressed relatively early in the disease process: temporary reversion to the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle is one pathway; and medically-supervised weight loss is another. The major challenge at the population level is to better align the quality of our food supply with health. Science may come to the rescue. Fascinating data are emerging on the interplay between our diets, our gut microbiome and a range of inflammation-related chronic health problems. Large studies internationally have clearly demonstrated the links between diets comprised of minimally-processed whole foods (mainly plants) and protection from a wide range of chronic conditions. Maternal and child health needs to be the highest priority – as primary prevention needs to begin early in life. This will require innovative programs to make healthy food more available and affordable – particularly for disadvantaged populations. We could also build on the knowledge and wisdom of traditional lifestyles and diets of Indigenous populations.