Part of that is due to our genes; lack of access to quality health care and the fact that we are 50 percent more likely develop a form of colon cancer that is harder to treat. Most important, it’s our dependency on the Western diet — foods high in fat and protein and low in fiber — that put us at higher risk of developing the disease in the first place.
Now for the good news: Reducing your risk can be done in as little as two weeks by eating an African diet, says a new study.
Researchers from London signed up 20 African-Americans and performed colonoscopies on them. They found that many of them had inflammation and polyps in their colon, harmless growths which can develop into cancer down the road. Then for two weeks they were fed an African diet, which consists of eating healthy portions of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, spices, fish, eggs and poultry.
According to NBC News, the participants ate the following:
— Corn fritters, salmon croquettes, cheese grits, bananas, biscuits for breakfast
— Catfish, mango, tater tots, kale salad, hush puppies for lunch
— Okra, grits, lentils, pineapple, fish taco for dinner
Now on the flip side, the same researchers recruited 20 South Africans, none of whom had any polyps, and asked them to eat a Western diet for two weeks, which included:
— Beef sausage, pancakes, breakfast steak, hash brown and Rice Krispies for breakfast
— Hamburgers, French fries, spaghetti and meatballs, hot dogs and chili for lunch
— Meatloaf, Salisbury steak, noodles, mashed potatoes, roast beef, rice, macaroni and cheese for dinner
After the two weeks, researchers found that African-Americans eating the African diet had less inflammation in the colon than before, reducing their risk of colon cancer. Meanwhile, eating so much processed food and red meat with barely any vegetables and other whole foods compromised the Africans’ once healthier colons.
The researchers wrote:
“In comparison with their usual diets, the food changes resulted in remarkable reciprocal changes," they added. Just two weeks of eating different food changed the types of bacteria living in the colon and what they did… This suggests that a move to a fiber rich, low-fat diet may impact the high levels of colon cancer in the African-American population.”
Health experts claim that 90 percent of colon cancer cases in the Black community are due to our diets, according to a Voice of America report. And while that may sound like discouraging news, it’s actually empowering, because this means that you have more control over colon cancer than you think.
The choice is up to you. As they say: You are what you eat.
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(Photo: JLP/Jose L. Pelaez/Corbis)