Cancer, Diabetes and Cardiovascular diseases are not part of our Heritage
The diseases we know today like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity were much less common when our great grandparents and grandparents consumed our traditional foods centuries ago. African heritage foods offered a powerful, affordable, healthy eating model which has only recently been acknowledge as meeting the healthy eating guidelines (USDA 2010 dietary guidelines) promoted today by health professionals everywhere.
The Nutrition transition
Changes in diet and activity patterns are fueling the obesity epidemic. Rapid changes in dietary composition (what we eat), dietary patterns (changes in the way we eat) and activity/inactivity patterns is fueling the obesity epidemic in transitional societies. One of the more profound effects is the accelerated change in the structure of diet, only partially explained by economic factors. A second is the emergence of a large proportion of families with overweight members as is shown by comparative analysis of a number of African countries moves toward the higher fat and higher refined carbohydrate Western diet!
Nutritional trend and profile of 3 African countries
There’s an astounding amount of information out there about food, nutrition, and health, and it can be downright exhausting to go through in a quest to find clear-cut and solid counsel. In this artice, we put the pieces of African traditional diet and health puzzle together and summarize results of studies on nutrition and health carried out in 3 African countries:
Zambia in south-central Africa represents regions not yet affected by nutritional shift towards a more “western” diet. Though the Zambian population has been severely attached by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, NCD rates are remarkable low. The diet here consist mainly of cereals (maize and rice) which provide almost 2/3 of the dietary enery supply, starchy roots, sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables.
A landlocked country in west Africa with a predominantly young and rural population. Mali represents, the beginning stages of a shift predominantly in the urban areas. Meanwhile the rural diet is based mainly on whole cereals (millet, rice, sorghum,and maize), pulses like cowpeas (black-eyed peas), starchy roots(sweet potatoes, yams, cassava) and fruits and vegetables making up the rest of the diet.
In coastal West Africa, Ghana is experiencing more advanced levels of nutrition shift and physical activity decreases especially in its large urban population. Because of rapid urbanization, the demand for imported foods has increased, especially for wheat and rice, causing a shift in consumption patterns of the urban population. The consumption of poultry, meat, wheat and ready-made meals is much higher in urban than in rural areas. The FAO’ report on Ghana’s nutritional profile show that rural inhabitants consume more starchy roots, pulses and nuts than their urban counterparts.
As nutrition transition takes place in urbanized areas of Africa – where traditional eating patterns are being replaced by more urban modern patterns – the rates of diet-related non communicable disease (NCDs) like obesity, heart disease and diabetes is on the rise even though data from the World health Organization from 2008 – 2010 still present Africa as having some of the lowest NCDs rates in the world till date.
Consequences of the nutrition transition
A comparison between adults of diffirent age groups in 13 sub-saharan African countries showed that most African women are overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 25 kg/m2. A typical example is the case of South Africa. The South African Demographic and Health Survey of 1998 show that amongst 5897 African women older than 15 years, 26.7% were overweight with a BMI between 25 and 30 kg/m2 while 31.8% were obese with a BMI > 30 kg/m2. Therefore, 58.5% of these women were either overweight or obese. The nutrition transition, accompanied by decreased physical activity, leads to increases in overweight and obesity.
Is there a change/transition in the way you eat now compared to ealier? Why or why not? We’d love to hear from you in the comments area below!
World Health Organization. Procedural Manual for the Development of Regional and Country-Specific Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDGs) WHO; Geneva, Switzerland: 2010. in press.