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Leafy Greens Help New Mothers In Ghana

Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health problem in developing countries, with women of childbearing age and children being among the most affected. A community based study of postpartum mothers in Ghana set out to determine whether their vitamin A levels would improve if the new moms ate African eggplant leaves (a strong food source of vitamin A). A daily portion of 200g of eggplant leaves was given to mothers in one group for three months, while the control group did not receive any additional vegetables to their diet. After three months, the researchers tested the vitamin A levels in the women’s livers and found a significant improvement in the vitamin A status of the group eating the African eggplant leaves. Vitamin A containing leafy vegetables, like the African eggplant leaves, can be easily cultivated within African communities, making them a sustainable and cheaper alternative to oral supplementation of vitamin A.
African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Development; Vol 9, No 6 (2009). (Tchum et al.)

Obesity and Chronic Disease Rates in Botswana Hospital Workers

In this study, a group of hospital workers underwent physical examinations to measure weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, all of which are high when a person has metabolic syndrome. The workers were divided into age and gender groups. The youngest group (ages 35-54 years) was the most affected by metabolic syndrome, whereas the elderly — who are expected to have the greater risk of hypertension and abnormal cholesterol — were the least affected by these diseases. One reason for this finding is that the population of Botswana is changing from its traditional lifestyle to more modern, less healthy habits, and younger people are more likely to adopt these changes. In contrast, older people, who are less inclined to change their habits, reflected a higher state of health.

South African Medical Journal, May 2009, Vol. 99, No. 5. (Garrido et al.)

Africans' Allergies Increase With Urban Diets

The prevalence of allergies has consistently increased in Africa over the past 7-10 years.  Studies have shown that as an African country’s gross national income increases, so does the link between IgE, skin reactivity to allergens and allergic symptoms. Whereas Africans in rural Africa seem to suffer less from allergies, people of African descent in affluent countries have a higher prevalence and greater severity of allergic symptoms compared with the natives of those host countries. A study conducted at Leiden University in the Netherlands has identified the shift to a more ‘urban diet’ as a marker for increased skin reactivity to allergens, and therein a compromiser to the immune system.
Current Opinion in Clinical Immunology. Oct. 2008 (Obeng et al.)

Obesity in Nigeria: Current Trends and Management

Nigeria is facing an increasing prevalence of obesity, with a particularly strong occurrence in populations with hypertension and diabetes. A Nigerian study of these increases says that the rise of obesity rates can easily be attributed to rapid unplanned urbanization, change from local dietary pattern to western style diet which is driven by the proliferation of fast food outlets in major cities across the country. This study makes that connection.
Nigerian Medical Practitioner Vol. 54 No 1, 2008 (11-5). (Akpa et al.)

Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Haitians of Montreal, Canada

People’s eating patterns are greatly influenced by where they live. This study examined the eating patterns of 181 adult Haitians living in Montreal to measure the quality of their diets, as they transitioned from traditional Haitian lifestyles to a more North American way of life. Diet quality was broken down into a categorical spectrum, spanning from “Traditional” to “Western.” The researchers found that people who ate a “Traditional” diet, which was lowest in cholesterol and total fat, tended to be older and to have lived in Montreal for the shortest periods of time. The longer a person had lived in Montreal, the more “Western” their diet became, exceeding the recommended limits of total fat and cholesterol intake. Overall diet quality was significantly healthier in the “Traditional” diets than the “Western” type. The study concluded that it is important to encourage youth to retain their healthy traditional food cultures no matter where they live.
Public Health Nutrition
, May 2007. (Désilets et al.)

A Motivational Intervention in Black Churches: Results of the Eat for Life Trial

This study at Emory University reported on Eat for Life, a health intervention initiative to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among African Americans. Fourteen black churches were randomly assigned to give various levels of intervention and support to participants. One group received a one-time motivational health counseling call, while another group received a series of health counseling calls, enjoying ongoing motivational support. In a follow-up after 1 year, fruit and vegetable intake was assessed by three food frequency questionnaires. Change in fruit and vegetable intake was significantly greater in the group that received several counseling calls than in the group that received only one. Ongoing counseling support appears to be an effective strategy for helping people change the way they eat, and Black churches are an excellent setting to provide and evaluate health promotion programs. 

American Journal of Public Health. October 2001, Vol 91, No. 10: 1686-1693. (Resnicow et al.)

Nutritional Consequences of the African Diaspora

Africans carried their foods and dietary customs into diaspora throughout the Americas as a result of the European slave trade. Their descendants represent populations at different stages of a nutrition transition. West Africans are more often in the early stage, where there are many challenges and conditions like undernutrition and nutrient deficiencies. Many Caribbean populations represent the middle stages, with undernutrition and obesity co-existing. African Americans and black populations in the United Kingdom suffer the worst, from the consequences of caloric excess and diets high in fat and animal products. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and certain cancers are prevalent in the African-American and Afro-British populations, and they are beginning to emerge in populations that never before faced these diseases, as diets become more Western.
Annual Review of Nutrition, 2001;21:47-71. (Luke et al.)

The Diets and Heart Health of Older South Africans 

A study at the University of Cape Town’s Gerontology Centre examined the diets and heart disease risk of older colored (mixed descent) South Africans. A random sample of 200 subjects aged 65 years and above in Cape Town was interviewed to obtain nutrition and life-style data, and blood samples were taken to examine markers for heart disease risk. Blood pressure was also measured according to the guidelines of the American Heart Association. Caloric intake, on average, was low, as was total fat intake. Heart disease risk was low-to-moderate, but high blood pressure was common. This population has lowered their consumption of fruit and vegetables, resulting in a low fiber intake — very different from Africa’s traditional fiber-loaded diets. The survey findings indicate a need to encourage increased physical activity levels and an increased consumption of foods including vegetables, fruit, and whole grain cereals in this population.

East African Medical Journal. 1997 Aug;74(8):478-86. (Charlton et al.)

New Rates of High Blood Pressure in West Africa 

Rates of high blood pressure are rising in West Africa. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University sampled 598 participants (aged 45+ years) in southwest Nigeria (190 rural men and women, 205 urban poor men and women, and 203 retired urban railway workmen). Overall, the average blood pressure of all of these groups was low relative to westernized societies, like the U.S or Britain, and both men and women in these groups were remarkably lean. Hypertension occurrence increased across the gradient from rural farmers (14%) to urban poor (25%) to urban railway workers (29%). Sodium levels were also highest among the urban residents. These findings demonstrate that as communities become urbanized and adopt a more Western diet, hypertension rates rise.  These results also provide support for recommendations for prevention in West Africa and show that rural lifestyle and diets can provide a benchmark against which to compare populations in the African diaspora.

American Journal of Epidemiology. 1996 Jun 15;143(12):1203-18. (Kaufman et al.)

Diets of the Urban African Population of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa

Nurses in Cape Peninsula, South Africa, interviewed 983 adult African men and women aged 15-64 years, as part of a larger study on the high-risk nature of heart disease in this population. The interviewees met all of the dietary recommendations for carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, but their diets were low in fiber, vitamins and minerals — indicating a nutritionally depleted diet. Comparisons with rural African populations have revealed that the dietary intake of this urbanising study population represents a transitional phase towards a progressively Western diet, which produces higher rates of heart disease.

The Central African Journal of Medicine. 1993 Dec;39(12):238-47. (Bourne et al.)

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