St. Vincent & the Grenadines Green Party


Fri 23rd Sep 2022

Will modern diet cause future health problems?


The diet of our ancestors was a bit different to today’s diet for many people. We wonder whether the ‘modern’ diet will cause future health problems?

When we think of the diet of our people from 50 or more years ago, the food eaten was more home grown foods such as roots crops, other vegetables, fish and locally reared animals. The food that was consumed was cooked at home.

As seen all over the world, the diet of people in developing countries is changing to include more foods found in Western countries. There is a marked difference now in the diet of many people in SVG compared to the diet of yesteryear. There is a trend now for consuming food that is regarded as fast-food or takeaway or more western and sugary fizzy drinks. Will this modern diet cause future health problems?

The 2018 World Cancer Research Fund recommendations include limiting consumption of “fast foods” and other processed foods high in fat, starches and sugars as strategies for cancer prevention.

A British Medical Journal study showed that a 10 percent increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a 12 percent risk of overall cancer and an 11 percent risk of breast cancer. These findings add to the strong body of evidence linking poor diet with cancer risk and being overweight/obesity. Also, chronic obesity can increase a person’s chances of adult-onset diabetes.

Leader of SVG Green Party, Warrant Officer Ivan Bertie O’Neal BSc (hons), MSc, MBA, asks should we be concerned in SVG that the diet of today may cause an elevated level of bad health in years to come? Do we have the health facilities to cope with large increases of ill health amongst our population?

To investigate the possible roles of diet and gut bacteria, an international team including scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and Imperial College London, carried out a study with a group of 20 African American volunteers and another group of 20 participants from rural South Africa. The two groups swapped diets under tightly controlled conditions for two weeks.

The volunteers had colonoscopy examinations before and after the diet swap. The researchers also measured biological markers that indicate colon cancer risk and studied samples of bacteria taken from the colon.

At the start, when the groups had been eating their normal diets, almost half of the American subjects had polyps -- abnormal growths in the bowel lining that may be harmless but can progress to cancer. None of the Africans had these abnormalities.

After two weeks on the African diet, the American group had significantly less inflammation in the colon and reduced biomarkers of cancer risk. In the African group, measurements indicating cancer risk dramatically increased after two weeks on the western diet.

In 20 to 30 years in SVG, will we find a generation of people who suffer disproportionately compared to older generations, from health conditions caused by their diet of higher levels of fast-food or takeaway food or ‘Western’ food.

This is particularly relevant now, given the on-going changes in dietary practices in our country. There is a rising intake of processed animal products, takeaway and high energy foods, and decreasing intake of traditional root vegetables, other vegetables and fruit.

We voice a note of caution and concern. Where is our health headed in SVG?

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