Many scientific contributions support the benefits of fruit and vegetables for Western “health and well-being” though few suggest mechanisms (1).
DP Burkitt’s observations in the 1970’s that Western stool weights and oro-anal, transit times show four-fold differences compared to those of Africans eating a high fibre diet, suggest remarkable physiological differences (2). KW Heaton’s observations in the 1990’s that 1% of an East Bristol population achieve successful defaecation once per week, but 0.1% only manage successful defaecation once per month, and, that 20-30% of all bowel movements are complicated by physical efforts during defaecation, is also important evidence (3). Physical efforts during defaecation at different times of life cause specific neuro-immunohistochemical signatures in many pelvic organs, and, may contribute to unexplained, extrapelvic denervation and reinnervation with diverse and varying consequences that we recognise as Western diseases (4).
Fruit and vegetables may protect us by many mechanisms but the present epidemic of obesity suggests that our deteriorating diets and bowel habits, are serving up a menu of Western diseases that will overwhelm health services throughout the developed, and developing, world. And, tragically, as Bdurkitt suggested in the 1970’s, they are entirely preventable (2).
(1) Wang X, Ouyang YY, Liu J, Zhu MM, Bao W, Hu FB
Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies
BMJ 2014; 349 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4490 (Published 29 July 2014)
(2) Burkitt DP, Trowell HC. Western diseases: their emergence and
prevention. London: Edward Arnold, 1981
(3) Heaton KW, Cripps HA.
Straining at stool and laxative taking in an English population.
Dis Dig Sci 1993 (Jun);38(6):1004-8.
(4) Quinn MJ.
Autonomic denervation and Western diseases.
Am J Med 2014 (Jan); 127(1):3-4.
Competing interests: No competing interests