Monthly Archives: July 2009

Why Filipino Americans do it better

Why Filipino and Filipino Americans do it better
and other findings on Filipino American health


I recently heard a disturbing story from my aunt, a nurse with a Bariatric surgery team in CA. She recently got injured from holding up the weight of the fatty flesh of a patient undergoing reduction surgery for hours. My aunt was prescribed pain killers, and is on indefinite sick leave. (It sounds like a scene out of a surreal indie film, not reality.) Obesity is an epidemic in the US. I knew that, but I never heard of the field. Bariatics is “a field of medicine encompassing the study of overweight and its causes, prevention, and treatment.”

I noticed many of my relatives had health problems and wanted to learn about the causes and solutions. I found that Filipino Americans as a group are at risk for obesity — along with conditions such as diabetes and cancer. Tita Loreta, my hero and a breast cancer survivor, recently alerted me to the alarmingly high breast cancer rate among Filipina Americans. Tita Loreta is a nurse, manager, and facilitator of a breast cancer support group at UCLA.

Research: The bad news

Here are some research findings regarding Filipino American health issues. Note the interesting comments on Filipino American males and females, respectively.

“Filipinos had the highest incidence and death rate from prostate cancer and the highest death rate from female breast cancer” among Asian American groups in CA, where most Filipino Americans are based.
Source: “Cancer Incidence, Mortality, and Associated Risk Factors Among Asian Americans…,” A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, American Cancer Society

“Filipino adults are 70% more likely to be obese as compared to the overall Asian population.”
Source: “Obesity and Asian Americans,” US Dept. of Health and Human Services

“Filipino immigration to the U.S. is associated with changes in eating patterns and tendency to develop eating pathology. Eating disturbances are important to examine since Filipino Americans show high rates of hypertension and type-2 diabetes relative to other cultural groups. Research on Filipino Americans has indicated a surprising gender difference in risk of eating pathology. Filipino American males show a pattern of eating disorder symptoms and body dissatisfaction similar to that of White American females.”
(footnotes omitted)
Source: “Eating and Acculturation…,” North American Journal of Psychology

To add to this, there is the “colonization” of the Philippine culture by the food and pharmaceutical business. (I have observed that processed white bread, white rice, white milk etc. is often perceived and presented to be superior to the nutritious whole foods of the traditional Philippine diet.) I’ll save this topic for another time, since I’ve already presented an overwhelming amount of information.

Research: The good news

“Working as a plantation doctor between 1973 and 1976 on the Big Island of Hawaii gave me insights that saved my life and the lives of many others. My first generation Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese patients lived on rice and vegetables (foods they learned to love before they moved to Hawaii) – no dairy and little meat – and they were my trimmest and healthiest patients – no diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or prostate, colon or breast cancer. Their children and grandchildren, who were raised from birth in Hawaii, learned the American diet, and as a result became fat and sick.”
Source: “Logan Ginger,” Dr. John A. McDougall

Dr. Mc Dougall observed Filipino men thriving on vegetables, fruits, and rice. They had, what he describes as, “natural Viagra.”

“Men in their 70s and 80s were starting new families and demonstrating physical functions many American men only fantasize about after their 50s. These Filipino septuagenarians also expected to see their young children grow into adults, and they did. This virility and optimism was from their simple diets.”
Source: “Basic Nutrition from My Plantation Patients,” Dr. John A. McDougall

For Filipino Americans (and other populations) to thrive, Dr. McDougall makes a compelling case for nourishment from meals based on vegetable, fruit, and grains.

Related links
FiLipino American Vegetarian Association (FLAVA)

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