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Should you follow the Hadza diet?

If you are thinking of joining the Hadza diet brouhaha, first know why Indian experts are so wary about it.

fitness Updated: Nov 08, 2017 15:39 IST
Susan Jose
What you eat, affects your gut microbiome and the stronger the gut, the better is the immunity.
What you eat, affects your gut microbiome and the stronger the gut, the better is the immunity.(Istock)

A recent study conducted by Stanford University found out that the gut bacteria of the people from Hadza tribe in Tanzania were healthier compared to their non-tribal counterparts.

“The research compared the microbiomes in individuals from the western countries with those of the tribe. It was found that those belonging to the tribe have remarkably healthy microbiomes, which means they have remarkably healthy guts,” explains Dr Keyur Sheth, consultant gastroenterologist, K J Somaiya Hospital Superspeciality Centre, Sion (E).

The new study reinforces the results of an older study conducted on the same topic. “A study by Stephanie et al in 2014 proved that the faecal matter of the people from Hazda tribe lacked bifidobacterial and comprised of various other bacteria, which makes their gut stronger,” says Dr Pooja Thacker, nutritionist, Bhatia Hospital, Grant Road (W).

“Ultimately the stronger the gut, the better is the immunity. Also, their immunity gets developed over a period of time because of which they are able to digest such high fibre,” adds Thacker.

A man of Hadza tribe shares honeycomb with other people in the bush near Lake Eyasi, Tanzania. (Istock)

The Tanzanian Hadza tribe is one of wandering foragers and their diet typically follows the cycle of nature and the resources available in the geographical boundaries of where they live. They eat only the food that they find in the forest, such as berries and fruits.

NOT WELL-SUITED FOR INDIANS

“Indians normally don’t eat such high fibre food. Our regular diet — even by increasing fruits, vegetables, husk, complex cereals, lentil and pulses — does not have the bandwidth to digest fibre intake beyond a point. The capacity to handle sudden change in diet varies from person to person based on their past dietary habits. But generally, it is hard for the gut to digest a new food item. So, such high fibre diet is practically very difficult to digest and get used to, particularly for us,” says Thacker.

Sheth too agrees, and says, “From an Indian perspective, it must be mentioned that we have not yet reached the level of eating processed food as the western countries. India has a rich tradition of eating healthy natural diet as per each state and its weather. One must keep in mind that diets of tribals must not be emulated blindly as they also have a different lifestyle as compared to that of developed communities. Part of their ability to digest high fibre, for instance, could also be due to the active lifestyle they pursue.”

The take away is that one should focus on eating natural foods that are free of chemicals and as per the climate and within the geographical limits of the place. That is the simplest and appropriate dietary method to be followed for a healthy person.

Zoya Fakhi, nutritionist, Bhatia Hospital, Grant Road (W) lists how one can pick the positives of Hadza diet to tailor-make a food chart that is better adaptable to Indian bodies:

1. Include high fibre foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses and legumes.

2. Avoid processed and packaged foods.

3.Try including organically produced foods.

4. Modify the recipes as per the ingredients and availability.

5. Try to include the foods as per availability during the season. For example, meat and tubers in dry season; berries and honey in wet season.

Some negative effects of Hadza diet:

1. Since there is less water and high fibre in it, people following this diet can face problems of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal cramps and pains.

2. There are chances of hypoglycaemia, since this diet has less of simple carbs.

3. It eliminates the legumes, lentils, whole grains, good fats, essential salt and other vital essential nutrients, which are very important for a healthy lifestyle.

With inputs from Sheela Tanna, dietitian and fitness consultant, KLS Memorial hospital, Vile Parle (W), Pallavi Srivastava, fitness nutritionist, Q-Slim Fitness Studio, Andheri (W), Kejal Sheth, nutritionist, Nutrivity.in and Kanchan Patwardhan, clinical nutritionist, Arogya Hospital, Thane.

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The author tweets @iamsusanjose