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Over the weekend, I had dinner with a long-time friend who was visiting from his adopted home in Korea.

The friend, who is African-American, born and raised in Philadelphia and had only been in the States for a month, said one thing he didn’t enjoy about returning home was the weight gain. So far, he had gained 15 pounds.

“I think part of the reason for my weight gain is because the food over there is horrible,” he said as he took a bite into his second helping of tacos.


But according to new research, it might be environmental.


As reported by the New York Daily News:

“A new study from the city’s Health Department examining health discrepancies among black New Yorkers found that Caribbean and African immigrants tend to have fewer health problems like asthma and obesity than American-born blacks.

American-born blacks are also more apt to smoke and drink than blacks who are originally from other countries, the study says.

Some 53% of American blacks labeled themselves as drinkers, compared with 44% of Caribbeans and 34% of Africans.

No black group drinks as much as white New Yorkers, 70% of whom reported being drinkers, the study found.”

The health distinction between Diaspora and native Africans does not stop there. As the article notes, African-Americans have a greater percentages of obesity, asthma and high-blood pressure than our West Indian and African counterparts.

In fact, the only illness category in which all Blacks rated the same was diabetes (between 13 and 14 percent).

Although this particular health department study doesn’t spell out other factors that might contribute to the health gap (outside of smoking and drinking), its findings underscores previous research, which contrasts the health benefits between African-Americans and traditional South African diets.

In that study, which was published in April of 2015, colon cancer researchers at the University of Pittsburgh switched the diets of 20 African-Americans and 20 South Africans in a two week period span.

And as reported by Think Progress:

“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.

After the exchange, researchers performed colonoscopies on both groups and found that those in the African diet group increased the production of butyrate, a fatty acid proven to protect against colon cancer. Members of the American diet group, on the other hand, developed changes in their gut that scientists say precede the development of cancerous cells.”

You can read the study here.

And of course, none of this is conclusive. Like I said, my friend has been living in Korea. And when not in the States, he tends to only eat fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats anyway.

But if you find yourself ailing from a disease or obesity, and you’re not getting anywhere with modern medicine and other dietary suggestions, perhaps the answer might involve eating like our ancestors, pre-slavery, did?

Image via Shutterstock

Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic, free-thinker, slick-mouth feminist and the reigning queen of unpopular opinions. She is also from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit

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