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Yam and palm oil reduces risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes

Yam and Palm oil
Yam and Palm oil

A recent study suggests that with return to a yam-and-palm-based diet and the minimisation of wheat gluten and milk lactose, the epidemic of the metabolic syndrome that currently challenges Forest West Africa and her global diaspora would be significantly obviated or remediated.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Can eating a diet rich in yam and palm oil prevent and ‘cure’ heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes?

A recent study suggests that with return to a yam and palm-based diet and the minimisation of wheat gluten and milk lactose, the epidemic of the metabolic syndrome that currently challenges Forest West Africa and her global diaspora would be significantly obviated or remediated.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Dr. Chidi G. Osuagwu of the Department of Biomedical Technology, Federal University of Technology, Owerri Imo State published the study titled, “Forest West African Indigenous Diet and Modernization Diseases”, in the journal Functional Foods in Health and Disease in 2019.

The researcher wrote: “Forest West Africa is the domestication cradle of two important food crops; yam (Dioscorea spp) and oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). This implies possible adaptation to the functional essences of these crops at the genetic and epigenetic levels over millennia by indigenous peoples. Evidence demonstrates that Forest West Africans are adapted to a diet of yam, oil palm and associated crops. Transiting from this adapted dietary regime to one based on gluten-rich wheat and lactose-rich milk has created a public health challenge, the Metabolic Syndrome. Bioactive chemical functions that are alkalising, ketogenic (very low-carb, high-fat diet) and bioelectrical modulating healthful to an acidic and oxidising tropical physiology, characterize the indigenous Yam-palm diet type.

“With return to a yam and palm-based diet and the minimization of wheat gluten and milk lactose, the epidemic of the metabolic syndrome that currently challenges Forest West Africa and her global diaspora would be significantly obviated or remediated. The bioactive functions of that diet can be extracted and used for their contemporary diet supplementation. Such supplements could include the metabolic syndrome remediating dioscorin from yam and arterial plaque removing tocotrienols from red palm oil. From cross-study of contemporary African and African- American diets in relation to health, genetically or epigenetically adapted diets appear to avail optimal health to indigenous people compared to adopted modernization diet.”

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used mainly to treat hard-to-control epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.

Reacting to health concerns about saturated fats-rich Forest West African palm oils, the researcher said: “Both the key fatty acid in red palm-oil, palmitic acid (C16H24O2), and the one in palm-kernel oil, lauric acid (C12H24O2,) are saturated with commensurate poor dietary reputation. People wonder how saturated fats could be healthful, and not obesogenic, as being indicated for the palm oils. But accumulating scientific evidence indicates their healthfulness. For instance, there is homeostatic control of body palmitic acid concentration, which can only be disrupted by some other physiological derangement or obesogenic sedentary lifestyle.

“Although lauric acid consumption might raise cholesterol level across board, it raises the desirable high-density lipoprotein (HDL) two- and one-half times as fast as the unhealthful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) form. This, in turn, results to healthful low total cholesterol to HDL ratio. Lauric acid, being thermogenic, raises tissue metabolism and consequent weight loss, in addition to the neuro-protective effect of the ketone bodies it generates. With the strong alkalising powers of tocotrienol and lauric acid, in addition to the plaque-dissolving power of tocotrienol, the palm oils are, demonstrably, healthful for the acidic body of Forest West Africans.”

Commenting on the nutritional functions of leafy vegetable complements of the Yam-palm Diet, Osuagwu said: “Of the three basic nutrients, Carbohydrates come mainly from yams; Fat mainly from oil-palm oils, whence then Protein? Protein indeed comes mostly from vegetable sources, including pulses and other green crops. For Forest West Africans, leafy green vegetables are basic to the diet. The many other sources of additional protein, however, fish and meat are not basic to the Forest West African diet. They are occasional treats, and standard cuisine is not planned around them.

“One obvious dietary chemical function from leafy green vegetable sources is folic acid, originating from foliage, by definition. It should be noted that the structure of this alkalizing chemical function is employed to stabilize the highly acidic body of sickle cell anemia sufferers. Sickle cell, a genetic disease, is most prevalent in Forest West Africa. Seasoning with capsaicin- rich pepper is routine, and a pepper-less meal is unusual. The bioactive function of pepper, capsaicin, is therefore consumed a lot.

“A great proportion of protein is sourced from leafy vegetables, as already indicated. The protein-richest of the leafy green vegetables, Pterocarpus milbraedi (Called Oha/Uha in Igbo used making the popular Oha soup), consumed as soup, has 26 per cent protein by dry weight. Moreover, studies show that by amino-acid constitution its protein is superior to the soya-bean, which is known to be, in turn, superior to beef protein. ‘The protein in P. mildbraedii (Uha) is higher in quality compared to those in the soybean…cowpea’. It is also the richest in anthocyanin content of the regular green leafy vegetables of the region.”

According to the study, the summary of all these is that some bioactive wheat substances disrupt some people’s metabolic systems when they are not adapted to it. Wheat is a great crop being the main grain of the temperate peoples. It is energy-rich and contains a very high fiber content that is very good for the colon. However, it is best for those most adapted to it, which does not seem to include Forest West Africans. Forest West Africans are adapted to yams, fruits, and leafy green vegetables and are, therefore, more susceptible to gut diseases and metabolic syndromes, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension, associated with the Wheat-Milk diet of modernity.

It has been observed, “The history of wheat parallels the history of chronic disease and obesity across the world”. These chronic diseases are now more prevalent in Forest West Africans and their Diaspora. This is evident in the statistics for related metabolic syndrome. Obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension are metabolic syndrome-related diseases, influenced by diet, as already indicated. The belly-fat associated with metabolic syndrome has been called ‘wheat belly’ and ‘gluten belly’.

It is noted that, independently, lactose in milk and wheat can cause lower bowel inflammation. Taken together, as has become the breakfast culture of city-dwelling peoples across the world, the potential for lower bowel inflammation is compounded for those who are not adapted to either. This would be particularly the case with those whose traditional foods are not wheat and milk based.

The evidence points to the validity of these surmises for Forest West Africans. Lower bowel inflammation, commonly mistaken for hemorrhoids or pile, is now endemic in West African cities. This is particularly the case with sedentary workers. This is a classic case of a modernization disease because this was not a serious health problem in West Africa before encounter with alien diet and sedentary professions. Haemorrhoids incidence is known to correlate such metabolic syndrome disease as obesity. The anecdotal experience is that as soon as someone afflicted by this ‘pile’ subtracts wheat (bread, cake, biscuit, etc.) and milk from their diet, the symptoms recede.

A remarkable experiment carried out by University of Pittsburg research team points to the possible ameliorative approach to modernization diseases, such as the metabolic syndrome among Africans. O’Keefe and his colleagues picked populations of African Americans and rural Africans and switched their usual diets for a period and observed the outcomes. “In this time, the Africans consumed traditional American food — meat and cheese high in fat content — while African Americans took on a traditional African diet — high in fiber and low in fat, with plenty of vegetables, beans, and cornmeal, with little meat”. Unambiguously, the Africans started developing the usual diseases of African Americans, like colon cancer. The African-Americans on rural Africans’ diet experienced healing, with measured remission of symptoms.

It has to be noted that supplementation with folic acid, the potent reducing power supplier, which was used to manage Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), had very positive effect. Forest West Africans, away from the liberal supply of green leafy vegetables, should supplement their diets with regular supplies of folic acid.
The logical inference is clear. If Africans all over the world go back to the traditional African diet to which they are genetically adapted, the problem of ‘modernization’ diseases, particularly the metabolic syndrome, among them will recede. For Forest West Africans, this would include a diet without wheat, milk and excess meat. Yams, palm oils, and green-leafy vegetables as a base would, like the Pittsburgh University experiment demonstrated, restore them to a healthier life. That is a life free from life-shortening metabolic syndrome.

Some Chinese researchers have looked at what would happen to rat models of the metabolic syndrome when treated with the yam protein dioscorin. Their finding: “Yam dioscorins exhibit improved metabolic syndrome activities in obese rats…” The same test carried out with dioscorin to test hypertension control proved efficacious.

Another bioactive function that makes yam (Dioscorea spp.) a good functional food for Forest West Africans is thiocyanate. A study on this concluded that Sickle cell anemia is much more severe in African Americans than Africans on the continent because of the lack of adequate levels of thiocyanate in the American diet, whereas Africans get adequate levels of this efficacious anti- sickling agent from yam.

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