By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 18, 2015
Credit: © Avril O'Reilly / Alamy

If the world were a middle school cafeteria, America would be the kid who always manages to trade his apple for a cupcake. Researchers have taken the idea of lunch swaps to another level with a new study that completely switched the diets of a group of Americans and a group of South Africans. The results are not promising for the good old USA.

Dr. Stephen O’Keefe from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine interviewed American and South African subjects about their typical diets and then had them switch for two weeks. The South African diet contained lots of pap, a high-fiber corn porridge. The American diet, as you might expect, contained lots of high-fat, low-fiber processed food. What researchers found were both short-term and long-term benefits of the South African diet. Americans eating the South African diet had less bowel inflammation, while the South Africans’ heath declined. Additionally, the Americans saw significantly higher rates of butyrate, a compound that other research as shown can help prevent colon cancer.

The study, published in Nature Communications, isn’t necessarily intended to tout the South African diet as the next big thing. But at the very least it shows the American diet is far from ideal for our health.

[h/t NPR]