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Member Research and Reports

UNC: Researchers Find Lack of Fresh Food on Galápagos’ San Cristóbal Island Contributes to Obesity

A new study from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health provides insight into the food landscape and nutrition-related behaviors on San Cristóbal Island in the Galápagos Islands, adding to ongoing research on the global nutrition transition.

Dr. Margaret E. ‘Peggy’ Bentley, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition at the Gillings School, is co-author of “Dietary Diversity, Food Security, and Body Image among Women and Children on San Cristóbal Island, Galápagos,” which was published online January 28 in Maternal and Child Health Journal.

The Galápagos Science Center – a joint effort between UNC-Chapel Hill and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador to advance science and education related to the island ecosystems and their inhabitants – was dedicated in 2011.

“This particular study allowed us to focus on some of these issues and provide a unique window into what we call the nutrition transition, when changes in diet and lifestyle lead to obesity and chronic diseases,” said Dr. Bentley. “The Galápagos Islands provide a perfect setting to explore these important global health issues.”

The team conducted a mixed-method study of the food environment, diets and body image among women and young children who were permanent residents on the Galápagos’ San Cristóbal Island in 2011. Most women in the study reported limited quantity and variety of fresh food due to an unreliable food supply shipped from mainland Ecuador. Because so much food is brought from 600 miles away, often in open barges, the fruit and vegetables are of poor quality, leading to the consumption of an unhealthy diet based on processed food. While 75 percent of women were overweight or obese, 80 percent of children were of normal, healthy weight.

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