Poverty: It’s for your own good.

Marketplace listeners may have heard yesterday evening’s story about the Cuban health non-crisis. Contrary to what you might expect from the western hemisphere’s last and most economically isolated Communist dictatorship, they enjoy a longer lifespan than Americans. And research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by a group of Johns Hopkins scientists suggests that it’s poverty that’s responsible. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba found its supply of food and fuel suddenly cut off… making the Pearl of the Caribbean an ideal test case for a low-calorie, high-exercise lifestyle:

DAN GRECH: The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 and stopped sending discount food and fuel to Cuba. Over the next four years, Cubans ate a third less calories a day, and they were forced to walk or bike to work.

DR. MANUEL FRANCO: This was a unique opportunity, because we were able to look at what would happen if a whole population is able to reduce their caloric intake and increase their physical activity.

Basically, rates of obesity, cancer and heart disease – the ailments of prosperity – dropped precipitously. As soon as the economic downturn ended, rates began rising.

You can read more on the findings in a release from the NY Transfer News Collective, with links to other resources.

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