Diet swap study shows potential dangers of junk food

The BBC Health News section carried a headline that caught our eye in the Healthy Performance office this week … “”Diet swap experiment reveals junk food’s harm to guts,” 

Researchers asked people to switch diets for two weeks – 20 US volunteers moved to a low-fat, high-fibre diet while 20 volunteers from rural Africa were asked to eat more “junk” food.

In short, the Americans who ate a traditional South African menu for two weeks showed big changes in their digestive system. And, staggeringly, South Africans who ate the foods usually eaten by a group of African-Americans from Pittsburgh showed digestive changes that could, in theory, lead to bowel cancer.

Our thoughts were that this research needs to be taken with a slight pinch of salt – this is a small study that covered a very short period of time. However, what is striking is how clear the changes were with the participants and how short a time it took to alter the inner workings of the gut with a change of diet. The findings do appear to support the belief that modern Western diets – which are high in fat and sugar and low in fibre – are bad for us.

Experts estimate that up to a third of bowel cancer cases could be avoided by eating more healthily and the results do not contradict current advice that consuming a high-fibre diet can reduce your bowel cancer risk. Also, obesity and a diet high in red and processed meat have been shown to increase bowel cancer risk.

Around 1 in 17 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer – men and women of all ages, cultures and backgrounds. It is the third most common cancer and the second biggest cause of cancer deaths

A bowel screening test aims to detect polyps and other changes in the bowel that might develop into bowel cancer in the future. It can help to detect bowel cancer at a much earlier stage, before people are experiencing any obvious symptoms.  If you would like further details on how you can implement a simple bowel screening programme for your employees, please call us on 0844 432 5849 (HEALTHY) where we will be more than happy to help.

For further information on the study please visit the BBC story, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-32494846