Overweight in the Pacific: links between foreign dependence, global food trade, and obesity in the Federated States of Micronesia

Global Health. 2006 Jul 11:2:10. doi: 10.1186/1744-8603-2-10.


The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has received considerable attention for their alarming rates of overweight and obesity. On Kosrae, one of the four districts in the FSM, 88% of adults aged 20 or older are overweight (BMI > 25), 59% are obese (BMI > 30), and 24% are extremely obese (BMI > 35). Recent genetic studies in Kosrae have shown that obesity is a highly heritable trait, and more work is underway to identify obesity genes in humans. However, less attention has been given to potential social and developmental causes of obesity in the FSM. This paper outlines the long history of foreign rule and social change over the last 100 years, and suggests that a combination of dietary change influenced by foreigners, dependence on foreign aid, and the ease of global food trade contributed to poor diet and increased rates of obesity in Micronesia. The last section of the paper highlights the Pacific tuna trade as an example of how foreign dependence and global food trade exacerbates their obesity epidemic.