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Food for thought


Medical scientists may or may not react, but to the lay-person the finding suggests room for research: The diabetes factor shows significantly higher in the NWFP than in other parts of Pakistan. In a Gallup poll about dieting habits, ‘due to diabetes’ was a reason for dieting that showed up at a percentage of 15 in Sarhad, which was significantly higher than elsewhere in Pakistan. The traditionally gourmandising Punjab logged in at 10 percent, so the incidence of diabetes cannot simply be explained in terms of a Pathan penchant for starch and sugar.
Cholesterol also ranks rather high as a reason to diet. The NWFP-Punjab graphs follow the same kind of pattern as they made in diabetes, though cholesterol percentage figures are a trifle higher, at 22 and 15. All that red meat and asli ghee does seem to make a difference, alas. It is Balochistan that disconcerts in the cholesterol context.
For all that it lagged with diabetics, in a ‘due to cholesterol’ count, Balochistan is virtually on par with the NWFP’s 22 at 21 percent. Arid Sindh and Balochistan stayed in single digit numbers of 5 and 3 when it came to watching the diet because of diabetes. Cholesterol it would appear seems to be a common, extensive kind of health problem, for Sindh also enters double digits and records a percentage of 12.
The interesting thing is that the word did not draw any puzzled frowns. Whether they have high cholesterol or not, it seems most people are familiar with the term. Perhaps the generally appalling functioning of the mass media deserves a compliment here. How else to explain the growing public awareness about health?
The Gallup questionnaire about dieting habits starts with the classic problem of adiposity. ‘Have you ever tried dieting to reduce weight,’ pollsters asked of their prey. Now apart from sounding rather rude, this is really a very difficult question to divest of bias and make clinically perfect. Was the individual approached fat or thin in the first place? What would be an average representative level for adiposity in Pakistanis anyway? One man’s fat is another man’s thin. Despite all the anorexic creatures we see around us at five-star hotel galas in spaghetti straps, 74 percent of the All Pakistan sampling says ‘No’, they have never tried to diet to lose weight. Of the long-suffering 26 percent who admit to the truth of their travails, it is the middle-aged among them who suffer most and try hardest. Poor things, trying to hold on to illusions of youth and ward off flabby age. Thirty-one percent of them have dieted. People below thirty or over fifty tally in a hopefully aesthetic symmetry of dietary effort at 22 percent.
There is no gender bias to dieting. One may conclude men and women are equally vain or health-conscious. But what is it about the NWFP?
The Pashto-speaking diet at a voracious rate of 51 percent (the Punjabi-speaking at only 17); and 45 percent in the Sarhad have tried dieting as compared with a mere 19 percent in Punjab, 28 percent in Balochistan, and 29 in Sindh. Are Pathans obsessed with physical fitness or does the stalwart, hardy frame house an essential hypochondriac?
If you jump to Question 4, ‘On the whole how much are you worried about your health’, Pushto and the NWFP again top the ‘Very much’ side of the scale with marks of language-wise (50 percent) and province-wise (46 percent). To give an idea of the margin of difference, Sindhi comes second language-wise at 39 percent, and Balochistan second province-wise at 32. The Punjabi in his amplitude comes last in the ‘Very much’ worried listing. No comment.
No comment either on the Saraiki belt. Frankly, it is hard to make out. One needs to be briefed.
Question 3 in the poll bluntly asks ‘what methods did you adopt for reducing weight’. Driven by obesity one can resort to bizarrely desperate measures. But despite all those individual horror stories that abound when dedicated dieters swap diets and experiences, the All Pakistan response is eminently sensible. Thirty-six percent avoid fatty food; 36 percent lower their food intake; 25 percent take exercise. Only a meagre 4 percent go for intriguing ‘Other’ options. And the ‘Other’ factor is highest — guess — in Punjab! Think up your own explanations