Corn biscuits for breakfast; veggie dogs for lunch; okra, tomato and black-eyed peas for tea. It’s probably not a diet to tempt most Americans into shedding a few pounds. But swapping westernised eating habits for the high-fibre diet of millions of people living in rural southern Africa could dramatically cut the risk of bowel cancer in the West, according to an innovative ‘diet swap’ study.
In research which saw 20 Americans switching diets with 20 South Africans living in rural Kwazulu, scientists saw dramatic effects on bowel cancer risk indicators after just two weeks.
Bowel cancer – one of the biggest cancer killers – is considered a ‘westernised disease’ and risk is heightened by a diet high in red and processed meat and low in fibre.
To test the true impact of diet, researchers led by cancer specialists at Imperial College London recruited 20 Americans from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and gave them a meal plan based on a ‘traditional’ African diet high in fibre and low in fat, centred on corn-based products, vegetables, fruit, and pulses.