The standard American diet (SAD-diet) isn’t known for its colossal benefits where health is concerned. In fact, several scientific studies show precisely how harmful it can be when it comes to all sorts of ailments, particularly cancer. But a recent study reveals just how dangerous the SAD diet actually is.
This two-week diet swap involved African-American adults as well as rural African residents. The volunteers underwent a diet exchange. While the US volunteers changed their diets towards a low-fat, high-fibre diet for 14 days, their 20 African counterparts were asked to increase their “junk-food” and fast-food consumption.
While such a short-term experiment would surely not be conclusive enough, one may think, the experiment’s results beg to differ. An impact was immediately notable.
The international study was coordinated by Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers who finally published their results in the journal Nature Communications. According to lead author, Stephen O’Keefe MD, the premise of the study was his personal experience with African cuisine from the time he practiced medicine in rural South Africa.
Dr. O’Keefe noticed that the prevalence of colon cancer or intestinal polyps (considered precursors for the development of colorectal cancer) was unusually low in South African residents. Contrastingly, western diets were linked to higher risks of developing both ailments, and colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
Both study groups were housed at the University of Pittsburgh where researchers prepared the meals in accordance with the particularities of each diet. The team of scientists then examined colon content and faecal samples and performed colonoscopies to understand whether significant changes had occurred.
During the two-week swap, US volunteers experienced significant gastrointestinal improvements, including a decrease in bowel inflammation. In the meantime, the African volunteers included in the study experienced bowel health deteriorations.
The idea that Western diets are incriminated in the deterioration of gastrointestinal functions isn’t new. In fact, a body of evidence suggests that Asian and African immigrants often change their low colon cancer incidence within one generation of Westernization. It is believed that the high concentrations of fat, animal protein and sodium as well as lack of fibre lead to an increased risk of colon cancer.
“In this project, we examined the impact of a brief diet change on the colon in a controlled setting where we didn’t have to worry about the influence of smoking and other environmental factors on cancer risk,” dr. O’Keefe said.
Despite the fact that the diet swap was bread, notable changes still occurred. Apart from turnover rates of intestinal lining cells, fibre fermentation levels as well as bacterial activity markers, inflammation also appeared in the case of those volunteers who had switched to a SAD diet.
At the same time, butyrate concentrations rose in the case of the US volunteers which had switched to the diet of their South African counterparts. Butyrate is believed to be involved in anti-cancer pathways.
Moreover, African-American volunteers also presented intestinal polyps (which the medical team removed during the colonoscopy procedures). Such polyps were not present among the South African volunteers.
Of course, such a small-scale study cannot allow for statistical correlations to be drawn. Further research is required in order to definitively identify causal relations, however, the evidence supports previous findings that fibre amount increases should decrease colon cancer risk.
Image Source: theplantbaseddiet.com
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