A two-week diet change experiment pinpoints the damage levels which a Western diet could have on our guts.
Scientists asked people to swap diets for two weeks – 20 volunteers from the United States went on a low-fat, high-fiber diet while other 20 volunteers from the rural parts of Africa were asked to eat more fast-food.
Although the change was brief, its impact was noticeable, Nature Communication explained. The Americans had far less bowel inflammation, while the African volunteers’ gut health had deteriorated. Experts say that it is not possible to draw any firm conclusions based this very small scale study, but the conclusions remain.
The findings point to the current belief that modern Western diets – which are very high in sugar and fat and low in fiber – are bad for our health.
Other studies which focused on Japanese migrants to Hawaii have revealed that it takes only one generation of junk-food consumers to modify their low incidence of colon cancer to the high levels seen in native Hawaiians. Also, the study shows that a high intake of dietary fiber, especially whole grains and cereals, cuts bowel cancer risk, while consuming red and processed meat dramatically increases the risk.
In the diet change study, the Western-style diet offered to the native African people was typical fast food, composed of burgers and fries. The US volunteers, on the other hand, where switched to a diet containing many pulses and beans. All the participants had underwent a series of medical tests before and after the diet swap.
The changes seemed to have a significant impact on the cells lining in the gut, but also on the way the bacteria that lives in the bowel moves – with the US volunteers recording an improvement.
“In just two weeks, a change in diet from a Westernised composition to a traditional African high-fibre, low-fat diet reduced these biomarkers of cancer risk, indicating that it is likely never too late to modify the risk of colon cancer,” said lead researcher Dr Stephen O’Keefe, from the University of Pittsburgh.
Experts believe that almost a third of bowel cancer cases can be fend off by eating more healthy food. A spokesman for Cancer Research from the United Kingdom explained that larger and longer research are still needed. “The diet swap was also fairly drastic whereas we know that making small changes you can stick with long-term is far more effective to maintain a healthier lifestyle”, he mentioned.
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