The high rate of adult obesity observed in Samoa (almost 46 percent in 2016) points to access to an amount of dietary energy that is well above the minimum amount of dietary energy needed by the population to be in good health and to be socially active.
The analysis of the food data collected in 2018 in the Samoa Household Income and Expenditure Survey (2018 HIES) shows that less than 1 person out of 20 is undernourished. However, the analysis of the information collected in the same survey also finds that about one person in four does not have access to safe and nutritious food. This puts a one quarter of the population at greater risk of various forms of malnutrition and poor health than a food secure population, which has better access to safe and nutritious food.
The survey results are confirmed by the high number of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Samoa. Access to enough dietary energy is not an issue in Samoa, as health problems are mainly the consequence of the quality of the dietary energy that is being consumed, rather than the quantity.
Further analysis of the 2018 HIES shows that only 13 food products contribute to 80 percent of the total dietary energy consumed. Four of the products: coconut brown (18 percent), rice (11 percent), taro (9 percent) and chicken quarters (8 percent) contribute 46 percent of the total energy consumed.
On average, a Samoan spends 5.4 Samoan Tala (WST) a day to purchase food, which corresponds to 45 percent of their total expenditure. Purchases account for 62 percent of the dietary energy consumed, and 30 percent comes from own production. More than 90 percent of the caloric intake comes from sweets, sugar, cereals, meat and fish that are purchased, while from own production, three quarters of the calories are from tubers, plantains, nuts and fruits.
Cereals such as rice or flour, or foods such as oils and sugar are very cheap sources of dietary energy, as it costs less than WST 1 to get 1 000 kcal from these products. To get the same amount of dietary energy from fish, milk or other dairy products would cost more than WST 5.
The variety of foods which households can have access to is uneven throughout Samoa. In Apia, 20 food products contribute to 80 percent of the dietary energy consumed. This number falls to 10 products in Savai’i. Coconut, taro, pastry of all kinds and rice represent half of the calories consumed in Savai’i, while rice, chicken, coconut, pastry, sugar and bread represent 50 percent in Apia. Savai’i is the region with the highest prevalence of food insecurity in Samoa, with more than one in three households being food insecure in comparison to less than one in five households in Apia.
In terms of essential nutrients, the Samoan diet is rich in fats that, on average, contribute 34 percent of the total amount of energy consumed, which is very close to the upper limit of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended norms for a balanced diet. Proteins, on average, contribute 11 percent and carbohydrates to 55 percent, both of which are close to the lower limit of the WHO recommended norms.