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Prior to European settlement of Australia, the health of Aboriginal people was probably better than that of the Europeans. In the past 200 years there has been a considerable improvement in the health of non-Aboriginal Australians, and a deterioration in the health of Aborigines. Some improvement in Aboriginal health has occurred in recent times. The Aboriginal people who live in Victoria are known as Kooris. An understanding of traditional Koori diets is important because people were generally healthy eating these diets. The traditional Koori diet was high in dietary fibre, unrefined carbohydrates, and protein, with adequate vitamins and minerals, and low in total fat and saturated fat, sucrose, salt, and without alcohol. Their lifestyle also dictated a high level of physical activity resulting in a reduced likelihood of overweight. The other notable aspect of the traditional diet was the variety of foods consumed. The present health problems of the Koori people stem primarily from their loss of ancestral lands, and social and cultural disruption. Kooris went from a hunter gatherer society to one almost entirely dependent upon mission handouts. There are many factors which may now contribute to the continued poor health and nutrition of Kooris. The relative importance of any of these factors is unknown. Morbidity and mortality data provide valuable information about the overall health of populations and their nutrition status. The Australian population is one of the healthiest in the world. There is however a remarkable difference between the health of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. The leading cause of death for both male and female Aborigines is disease of the circulatory system, including ischaemic heart disease and stroke. Deaths due to circulatory system disease is 2.2 and 2.6 times higher than the age adjusted Australian rates for men and women respectively, and between 10 and 20 times higher for young and middle aged adult Aborigines. Rates of hospital admission are 2.5-3 times higher than the rest of the population, with the highest rates being for infants. Although mortality statistics do not show nutrition related disorders such as obesity, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), and hypertension to be significant contributors to mortality, these statistics are not representative of the problem. Across Australia the prevalence of obesity, NIDDM, and hypertension are higher for Aborigines than the general population. Available data on morbidity and mortality for Aborigines in Victoria are limited, but the indication is that the overall situation is similar to the rest of Australia. If the situation for Victoria is similar to the rest of Australia, then this would suggest that the contemporary Koori diet is too high in fat and perhaps alcohol, and too low in fibre and variety. Further evidence is required to veri 644 fy this suggestion. There are several areas where information on Koori nutrition is limited or lacking. These include food intake, nutritional status, and dietary practices, such as cooking methods, salt and sugar use and meal patterns. It is generally agreed that information on Koori nutrition should be made available so that the problems can be identified, and strategies put in place to address the problem areas.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition
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