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.