Diabetes in Nauru: the price of economic wealth and westernization

While we may believe we understand the connection, Nauruans know first-hand, and perhaps better than anyone else, the bitter link between negative lifestyle change and one of its devastating consequences – type 2 diabetes. Located in the Central Pacific, 60 km south of the equator, Nauru is the smallest independent republic in the world. Its 10,000 inhabitants occupy a single coral island only 6 km long and 4 km wide. Approximately 80% of the population are indigenous Nauruans of Micronesian origin. The remainder includes people from other Pacific Islands (mainly Kiribati and Tuvalu), Chinese and Australians. The history of diabetes in Nauru closely parallels the rise and fall of its economic wealth from phosphate mining over the last half of the 20th century. Before the exploitation of phosphate, Nauruans lived in typically physically active Pacific Island style and ate a low-fat diet of fish and native fruit and vegetables. But, by the 1970s this tiny nation had become one of the wealthiest countries in the world – and with its new-found wealth and associated lifestyle changes, had also achieved one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
Keywords: 
Nauru, phosphate mining, chronic diseases, Nauru-STEPS survey