Our response to Africa Check

Pumpkins

Pumpkins

Africa Check on September 26 published an article reacting to our nutrition weekly story we run on September 20 titled ‘two super foods for Diabetes’ that profiled the anti diabetes properties of pumpkin and tamarind, Africa Check on its website, took the article’s massage out of context.

Africa Check reported: “Last week the news website Zambian Eye promoted pumpkin and tamarind as ‘super foods for diabetes.’ Research indicates concentrated elements in both may, in future, be useful in managing diabetes. It does not support the site’s misleading claims about the foods or the disease.”  Their story can be read in full by clicking here.

Our Nutrition and Health Staffer Asunta Simoloka brings out the argument below:

Concentrates versus whole foods

Africa Check argued that research shows ‘concentrated elements’ in pumpkin and tamarind, rather than the foods themselves, to have potential for managing Diabetes in future.

My response is that research also shows that nutrients work better when they are obtained from eating unprocessed whole foods as opposed to isolating those same nutrients from food and taking them as extracts, concentrates, or supplements.  So if any benefits exist in tamarind and pumpkin, eating these foods is the best way to reap those benefits.

Pumpkin products?

Africa Check cited a pumpkin product rendered unsafe to question some benefits of eating pumpkin listed in my article.  I do not endorse pumpkin products and they were never mentioned; my message is to eat real foods not manufactured foods.

Animal studies 

Another reason Africa check gave for dismissing all the anti diabetes properties of tamarind and pumpkin mentioned in my article is that studies on these foods have been done only on animals.

Tamarind and pumpkin fit the criteria for anti diabetes foods because they are unprocessed plant foods rich in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, nutrients that profoundly improve insulin sensitivity.  These known properties by themselves make tamarind and pumpkin ideal for diabetes.  Serving size for pumpkin matters too because over eating any starchy food at a go has the opposite effect.

Animal studies simply tell us that there might be even more anti diabetes properties at play in these foods beyond what we already know, for instance the possibility that compounds in pumpkins regenerate damaged pancreatic cells.

Moreover, we should realize that many healthy foods were in indigenous diets long before scientific studies acknowledged the health benefits of these foods.  For example, fiber rich unprocessed foods and fermented foods containing the widely touted probiotics have always been in traditional African diets even before nutritionists realized the value in these foods.

Then protein complementation between grain foods and legumes was only recently discovered but many African dishes have always combined grains with legumes.  Tamarind and pumpkin, the subjects of this debate, have also long been used traditionally in different cultures for treating diabetes and other chronic illness.

Lifestyle and diabetes

According to Africa Check my article implied that diet alone could treat diabetes.  Absolutely untrue; a few sentences from one article cannot to be taken as the whole message.  My broader message to readers is to take a holistic approach to wellbeing by adopting healthy habits including proper diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, controlled stress, and strong social ties.

Fiber and belly fat

Africa check cast doubt on my claim that fiber melts belly fat.  Research confirms that dietary fiber, found in unprocessed plant foods, including tamarind, plays a key role in eliminating belly fat by improving digestion and boosting metabolism.

Beating diabetes

Lastly, Africa check contended that Diabetics cannot beat the disease.  Most cases of type 2 Diabetes can be reversed, especially in the early stages.  Australian studies indicate that a vegetarian, unprocessed food diet combined with exercise and other lifestyle changes can reverse nearly 60 percent of type 2 Diabetes cases.

Our story can be read in full by clicking here.