Consequences of the African Diaspora on Nutrition

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Okonkwo, Sharon K. (2002)
  • Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
  • Subject: African diaspora | diet | NHANES | body mass index | diabetes | NIDDM

African-Americans, Afro-Carribeans and other children of the African diaspora continue to fare worse in many health measures of diet, nutrition, morbidity and mortality. What are some of the nutritional basis of such an outcome? What factors exist in the diet of these groups of people that have prevented them from obtaining the health outcomes of their predecessors? The African Diaspora is responsible for a huge transformation and translocation of millions of Africans during a four hundred year period. During this journey, countless Africans along with their foods and dietary customs were carried throughout the Americas to become the primary candidates of an institution of slavery. The descendants of the Africans who embody the diaspora represent populations at varying stages of what is now termed the "nutrition transition" by Popkin. According to this classification, West Africans are classified as members of the "early stage" because under nutrition and nutrient deficiencies are rampant in this region. However, many Caribbean populations have been found to represent the "middle stages" of the nutritional transition with under nutrition and obesity coexisting. Conversely, African-Americans and black populations in the United Kingdom suffer the unfortunate consequences of caloric excess and diets high in fat and animal products, and have thus been classified as members of the "later stages". Included in this classification is the stark reality that an increasing proportion of people consume the types of diets associated with a number of chronic diseases. The end result as observed by Luke et al. is that "Obesity, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), hypertension, coronary heart disease, and certain cancers all follow an east-to-west gradient of increasing prevalence"
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