Health Studies

A growing body of research shows that people of African heritage eating traditional foods are healthier than those who adopt a typical Western diet. We've listed a sampling of this research below, categorized by issues.

Lower Incidence of Diabetes in Vegetarians

A 2011 study examined the relationship of diet to incidence of diabetes among Black and non-Black participants in the Adventist Health Study-2.  The study participants included 15,200 men and 26,187 women (17.3% black) living in the US and Canada who were free of diabetes. Participants provided demographic, anthropometric, lifestyle and dietary data, while a follow-up questionnaire two years later elicited information on the development of diabetes.  Participants were grouped as vegan, lacto ovo vegetarian, pesco vegetarian, semi-vegetarian or non-vegetarian (reference group). The questionnaire results showed that vegetarian diets (vegan, lacto ovo and semi) were all associated with a substantial and independent reduction in diabetes incidence.  Blacks have long been associated with having an increased risk for diabetes.  The results of this study showed that the protection provided against diabetes from the consumption of vegetarian diets was as great as the excess risk associated with Black ethnicity.
Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 2011 Oct 7. (Tonstad et al.)

Patterns of Meat Intake and Risk of Prostate Cancer Among African-Americans

Given the higher risk of prostate cancer in African Americans, scientists at the National Cancer Institute investigated the impact of diet on prostate disease, looking specifically at the relationship between type of meat intake and prostate cancer risk among African-American men. Researchers analyzed data from 1,089 African-American prostate cancer patients, aged 50-71 years.  While white meats were not associated with prostate cancer, red meats cooked at high temperatures (examples: steaks, hamburgers, bacon) were positively associated with prostate cancer risk among African-American men. 

Cancer Causes & Control. 2011 Oct 5. (Major et al.)

Urbanization and Low Bone Mass in Women

A study conducted by the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at the Massey University in New Zealand hypothesized that vitamin D levels would be lower, bone turnover higher and nutrition inadequate in urban postmenopoausal black women living in South Africa, increasing their risk for low bone mass.  The study tested for prevalence of low bone mass risk ractors in 1261 black women from rural and urban South Africa.  Dietary risk factors identified were low calcium and high animal protein, phosphorus and sodium intakes.  Vitamin D levels and C-terminal telopeptide (a biomarker of normal bone metabolism) were significantly higher in rural vs. urban women older than 50 years.
Nutrition Research Oct 2011; 31(10):748-58. (Kruger et al.)

Income Levels and Urban Life Increase Weight

A study conducted by the University of Botswana explored associations among food consumption patterns, overweight/obesity, and socioeconomic status and urbanization. Scientists surveyed a nationwide cross-sectional sample of 746 adolescent schoolchildren in secondary schools of cities, towns and villages in Botswana.  The study found that overweight and obesity are associated with greater socio-economic status (SES), city residence and a snack-food diet pattern.  Students belonging to a higher SES reported significantly more daily servings of snack foods and fewer servings of traditional diet foods than those in a lower SES.  In general, students in cities ate significantly more servings of snacks and fewer servings of traditional foods compared with those in urban and rural villages.  The findings suggest that as nutritional transition progresses through urbanization and SES levels in Botswana, it will be important to increase the availability of fruits and consumption of traditional foods, while decreasing snack portion sizes.
Public Health Nutr. 2011 Aug 2:1-8. (Maruapula et al.)

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