Few—besides maybe Jared from Subway—would attest that a diet of exclusively fast food is going to give your waistline or overall health many benefits. Cheeseburgers and fries are undoubtedly delicious, but most of us eat them for their flavor and forgiving price point, not for their vitamin and mineral content.
We all have a few cheat days, but what if you went from eating a diet totally devoid of junk, and rich in legumes and plant-based stews, to a regimen of all of the high-fat crap that Americans love? And what if you asked a group of corn-dog-loving, red-blooded Americans to trade out their fried meats and carbs-on-carbs for lentils and chickpeas?
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh decided to try just that and see how quickly they could recognize changes in the healths of their subjects, 20 of whom were Americans and 20 of whom were rural Africans. And the results were even more staggering than the study leads had presupposed.
The purpose of the study was to examine why African Americans have considerably higher rates of colon cancer than rural South Africans with relatively similar genetic backgrounds. Researchers wanted to explore the tie between the higher consumption of fat, meat, and animal-sourced protein and cancer risk associated with the Standard American Diet, contrasted with the high-fiber, low-fat "African-style" diet.
After just two weeks, the Americans were in noticeably better shape in terms of the "biomarkers" that indicate the risk of developing colon cancer. Many of the subjects lost weight, experienced an improved metabolism, and also were awarded with better bowel health. Africans who consumed the American-style diet experienced. Lead researcher Stephen O'Keefe told the Sydney Morning Herald that the improvement in the subjects' health was a signifier "that it is likely never too late to modify the risk of colon cancer."
Additionally, the researchers claim that diet could be a major factor in the prevention of developing colon cancer, and that switching to a healthier, high-fiber diet could help up to a third of cancer diagnoses be avoided.
However, because the sample size was so small, a larger study would need to be conducted to better understand the extent of the risks and benefits that can be extrapolated from these different types of diets.
But if two weeks of eating healthier can do a body good, imagine what two decades of processed meat and onion rings looks like in your pipes versus two decades of stewed kale and black-eyed peas.
It just might be time to learn to love the lentils.