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Diet and Oral Cancer Risk in Brazil

A study conducted by the University of São Paulo examined the association between Brazilian dietary patterns and oral cancer. Dietary data was collected from 366 patients with oral cancer and 469 controls, using a food frequency questionnaire.  Three diet types were identified: “Prudent,” including frequent vegetables, fruit, cheese and poultry; “Traditional,” including rice, beans, pulses, pasta and meat; and “Snacks,” with frequent consumption of bread, butter, salami, cheese, cakes and desserts.  The study concluded that the traditional Brazilian diet consisting of rice and beans plus moderate amounts of meat may confer protection against oral cancer, independently of other risk factors such as alcohol intake and smoking.
Revista de Saude Publica. 2007 Feb;41(1):19-26 (Marchioni et al.)

Studies Compare Pima Indians in U.S. and Mexico

Two independent studies published 12 years apart in the journal Diabetes Care evaluated the possible impact of the environment on the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in Arizona’s Pima Indians, a group with the highest reported prevalence of obesity and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Data were collected on a population of Pima ancestry living in a remote mountainous location in northwestern Mexico, living a markedly different, “traditional” lifestyle in comparison to the Pima people of Arizona.  In the 1994 study, measurements of weight, height, body fat, blood pressure, plasma levels of glucose, cholesterol and HbA1c were obtained in 19 women and 16 men and compared with Pimas of the same sex, age, and diabetes status living in Arizona.  The study found that Mexican Pimas were lighter and shorter with lower BMIs and lower plasma total cholesterol levels than Arizona Pimas.  Only two women (11%) and one man (6%) had diabetes, contrasting with the expected prevalence of 37% and 54% in female and male Arizona Pimas, respectively. Twelve years later, the 2006 study reflected the same: significantly lower incidences of obesity and diabetes in the populations living in Mexico and leading a traditional lifestyle. The Mexican Pimas also enjoyed higher levels of physical activity than their U.S. Pima counterparts.
Diabetes Care 1994 Sep; 17(9): 1067-74 (Ravussin et al.)
Diabetes Care 2006 Aug; 29(8): 1866-71 (Schulz et al.)

More Beans, Fewer Heart Attacks

When traditional diets are abandoned, health often declines –as a Harvard School of Public Health study found in Costa Rica. Researchers matched 2119 people who had suffered a first acute myocardial infarction with a similar control group and assessed their diets. After adjusting for many factors, they found that consumption of 1 serving or more of dried beans daily was associated with a 38% lower risk of heart attack.
The Journal of Nutrition, July 2005; 135(7):1770-5 (Kabagambe et al.)

Nutrition Transition in Mexico and Other Latino Countries

 

In the past, the most common nutritional problem in Latin American countries was undernutrition.  However, these countries have recently undergone a nutritional transition characterized by an increase in energy-dense diets and increase in the prevalence of noncommunicable chronic diseases (NCCD) such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.  Researchers reviewed the available literature to determine the characteristics of the nutrition transition with emphasis in data from Mexico, Brazil, and Chile.  They found that some countries in Latin America like Brazil, Mexico and Chile are suffering from increased prevalence of overweight, obesity and NCCD related to dietary changes such as increased consumption of higher energy-dense processed foods and decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables.  
International Life Sciences Institute, July 2004; 62(7)S149-S157 (Rivera J et al.)

Diets of Latin-American and African-American Women

University of Hawaii researchers surveyed 271 African-American women and 234 Latin-American women, and assessed their diets. They found that the African-American women consumed more calories and more fat, while the Latino women consumed more carbohydrates and more fiber. While the Latino women weighed less, they were perceived themselves as heavier and reported “greater body image dissatisfaction.”
Obesity Research. April 2004; 12(4):652-60 (Sánchez-Johnsen et al.)

More Acculturation, Fewer Fruits and Vegetables

Acculturation is the extent to which mainstream customs, beliefs, and practices are adopted by immigrants.  Researchers in Washington State recruited 1,689 adult Hispanic and non-Hispanic participants to investigate whether acculturation is a predictor of fruit, vegetable, and fat intake among Hispanics.  Using the National 5-A Day for Better Health program dietary assessment instruments, researchers determined that highly acculturated Hispanics in Washington State consume significantly fewer fruits and vegetables than less acculturated Hispanics. 
Journal of the American Dietetics Association, January 2004; 104:51-57 (Neuhouser M et al.) 

Colon Cancer Increases as Mexican Diet Fades

Researchers in Los Angeles examined whether the changing incidence of colorectal cancer in their city’s Mexican-American population was due to changes in dietary practices in this group.  Cancer incidence and dietary intake data were obtained for over 35,000 Latinos of Mexican national origin – the largest sample of Mexican-origin Latinos of any such study in the US.  The incidence of colorectal cancer saw the greatest increase between the first and second generations.  Nearly all dietary changes due to acculturation also occurred between the first and second generations.  These findings suggest an association between colorectal cancer risk and certain dietary components. Higher intakes of alcohol and refined carbohydrates were major risk factors, and lower consumption of vegetables was a protective factor.
Nutrition and Cancer 2003, Volume 45, Issue 2 (Monroe et al.)

Acculturation and Obesity in Hispanic Adolescents

Between first and second generation US immigrants, a striking increase in overweight and obesity occurs.  A study using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health set out to determine the underlying factors that cause this phenomenon.  More than 8,600 adolescents of varying ethnicity were assessed for overweight and several factors including diet.  Researchers concluded that immigrant adolescents are likely to be influenced by the “obesigenic” environment of the US, including sedentary lifestyles, large portion sizes, heavy advertising of high-fat, energy-dense foods, and mass media.  Lifestyle differences between foreign- and US-born Hispanic adolescent immigrants are likely to underlie the striking increase in overweight between first and subsequent generations of US residence.
Social Science & Medicine, April 2003; 57:2023–2034 (Gordon-Larsena P et al.)

Dietary Trends in Latin-American Populations

In an effort to track the rise in chronic disease among people who move away from their traditional diets, scientists at Tufts University synthesized data about diets and health from many sources. They found a close association between dietary change (starting with the rich) and the health impacts of a more processed, energy-dense diet.
Cadernos de Saúde Pública. 2003; 19 suppl 1:S87-99. (Bermudez et al.)

Obesity and the Nutrition Transition

Reviewing data from around the world, Barry Popkin assessed associations between activity, food intake, and health over time and found “a marked shift in the structure of the diet.” Not only are dietary changes tied to increases in obesity, but they are occurring so rapidly that both malnutrition and obesity are co-existing in the same households.
The Journal of Nutrition. March 2001; 131(3):871S-873S (Popkin)

Traditional High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet Protects Against

A study from Oregon Health Services University examined the impact that a transition to a more ‘affluent’ diet had on thirteen Tarahumara Indians (five women and eight men).  Tarahumara Indians are a Mexican people traditionally consuming a low-fat, high-fiber diet and with very low incidence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  The thirteen subjects were fed their traditional diet (2700 kcal per day) for one week and were then fed a diet typical of affluent societies, which contained excessive calories (4100 kcal per day), total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol for five weeks.  After five weeks of consuming the affluent diet, the subjects’ mean cholesterol levels increased by 31%, and plasma triglyceride levels also increased by 18%.
New England Journal of Medicine 1991 Dec 12;325(24):1704-8. (McMurry et al.)

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