Forest West African Indigenous Diet and Modernization Diseases

Chidi Osuagwu


This review paper notes that the nutritional essence of an indigenous people’s diet can, broadly, be outlined in terms of their food-inherent bioactive chemical functions. Two food crops; Yam (Dioscorea spp.) and the Oil-palm (Elaeis guineensis), define Forest West Africa, agriculturally, as Yam or Palm belt. They can also be said to, broadly, define the diet of the region, which staple base they constitute, as the Yampalm Diet type. Some unique, bioactive, chemical functions of yam identified include; dioscorin, lipoic acid, potassium, biotin and, thiocyanate, while those of oil-palm include; tocotrienols, carotenoids, retinoids and lauric acid. These alkalizing food functions are, in theory, complementary to the acidic tropical physiology of Forest West Africans.  Fed on other than the Yampalm diet, Forest West Africans have been demonstrated to be highly susceptible to metabolic syndrome, and some other diseases, due to adopted alien diets. Examples are lactose intolerance from milk and inflammation reaction to wheat gluten. Some food functions of Yampalm diet; dioscorin in yam and tocotrienol from oil-palm, as examples, are efficacious in metabolic syndrome management. They are potential ‘Gene-adapted food-function supplements’ for emigrants from this area who adopt alien diets. Experiments have shown that restoration of the Forest West African diet ameliorates metabolic syndrome among the people, including their Diaspora in America. Restoration of, genetically or epigenetically, adapted indigenous diet among peoples recommends itself as part of management strategy for modernization diseases.

Key terms: Yampalm diet, food function, dioscorin, tocotrienol, alien diet, lactose intolerance, metabolic syndrome, epigenetic adaptation.

Full Text: [Abstract] [Full Article]

DOI: 10.31989/ffhd.v9i12.673


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