Samoan scientist looks at traditional island foods for type 2 diabetes prevention
• May 4, 2023
Amy Maslen-Miller, who hails from the villages of Manono and Sapapali’i is looking into traditional Samoan foods. Image: Olivia Renouf/Ensemble Magazine
A Samoan PhD student is researching traditional Samoan foods and how this may stop the onset of type 2 diabetes in Samoan women in New Zealand.
New Zealand-born Samoan, Amy Maslen-Miller, is looking into the traditional Samoan diet, and its links to preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes amongst Samoan women of all ages around the country.
Her research consists of two parts: a Talanoa session where she hopes to speak with 200 Samoan women, and a study where she will analyse the anatomy of Samoan women.
“I want to understand what Samoan traditional foods are, and what they mean to us,” Maslen-Miller said.
“So, I am going to be talking to Samoan women, aged 18-30 years for the younger generation, and to Samoan women aged 50-90 years who are the older generation.”
The study will look at Samoan women, and their metabolic health, body compositions, and genetic make-up.
“We want to understand how their bodies process different foods, how their bodies are made up (so body composition), and also we’ll look at genes – so we want to understand how their genes, their metabolic health, and their body compositions relate to each, and how that may relate to food,” Maslen-Miller said.
Maslen-Miller says she will be analysing a number of popular staple foods that have been familiar to Samoans for centuries.
“Taro, yam, breadfruit, banana, coconut, and fish were the main traditional Samoan foods from the missionary period [which was around] the 1800s.”
Choosing to focus on this topic for her research was an easy decision, as Maslen-Miller says it is her way of giving back to the community.
“It was really important to me to have a project that would help the community [and] that was relatable to myself,” she said.
Maslen-Miller also emphasised the importance of passing on this acquired knowledge to future generations.
“I hope that we can reclaim our traditional knowledge about foods because I feel like myself being New Zealand-born and not really having much to do with the Samoan culture, I don’t know that knowledge and I feel I want to learn that so we can pass it on to our next generation,” she said.
[It’s about] allowing our people to make decisions [that can make them] healthier or more active or to live longer for their children and grandchildren.”
Chief executive of Diabetes NZ, Heather Verry, made a statement in support of emerging research on diabetes.
“Research as to what people’s preferred food and how food is prepared will certainly inform dietary advice that will assist in the prevention and better management of diabetes.”
If you would like to help Maslen-Miller in her research, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her on 02108094644.
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