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WHO report and what this means for Africa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has established that there is a “definite” link between processed meats and cancer and a “probable” link between red meat and cancer.

This isn’t as much new news as it appears to be.  The western diet has always been thought to be the cause of cancers such as bowel cancer, but also stomach and pancreatic cancers, even if some sources say there isn’t a clear cut link with the last two cited cancers.  What this new report has also brought about, is that the probable cause for cancer might be a chemical called haem contained in red meat.  The report therefore cuts across the barrier of meat bought from supermarkets or from the butcher.

The only group of people who appeared to be jubilant at the announcement were the vegetarians.  Alas, the joy was short-lived when it was revealed that some veggie hot dogs were just vegetarian in name.

So what is the world to eat?

A Mediterranean diet or an African diet is best, as experts are saying. At least a rural African diet, which is rich in beans and vegetables.

Indeed, a study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Imperial College London found that by putting subjects whose diet was solely western on a rural African diet for two weeks, the risk of colon cancer got considerably reduced.

This is however the era of globalisation, and since the touting of the Africa Rising discourse some ten years ago, fast food outlets have been popping up in cities around Africa.  The rural African diet of corn fritters or maize porridge is being replaced by sausages and bacon, thought to be more sophisticated in some quarters.

More and more in the Western world, people are being made aware of the consequences of their diets on their health.  And they are heeding the message by eating everything, but in moderation.  Maybe this report by the World Health Organisation, beyond telling us something that we all knew, might make Africans realise that in this globalised world, they have much to teach the world than the other way around.

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