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African American mixed race family at July 4th picnic

Source: Susan Chiang / Getty

A new study has released from interesting findings: Black immigrants in New York City are healthier than US-born Blacks.

After examining health discrepancies among Black New Yorkersresearchers from NYC’s Health Department found that Caribbean and African immigrants have fewer health problems such as asthma and obesity than African-Americans, the New York Daily News reported. Data also showed that Black immigrants were less likely to smoke and drink compared to African-Americans.

Other key findings included:

  • U.S.-born blacks were more likely to have high blood pressure, with a rate of 38 percent, while the rate was 35 percent among Caribbeans, and 30 percent among Africans.

  • When it comes to asthma, 17 percent of  American-born Blacks suffered from the respiratory disease compared to 9 percent among Caribbeans and 3 percent among Africans.
  • Obesity showed a stark disparity affecting 36 percent of American Blacks, compared with 29 percent of Caribbeans and 21 percent of Africans.

  • However all three groups had the same level of diabetes — between 13 and 14 percent — but that’s still the double the rate of whites.

Health Commissioner Mary Bassett stressed that her agency’s study continues to prove that “communities of color are not monolithic.

It is sobering that immigrants of African descent, on average, have better health and fewer risk factors than the native born,” she said in a statement.

She added: “The city remains committed to reducing these troubling health inequities and ensuring that every New Yorker has the opportunity to live a longer and healthier life.

But what’s the deal?

For starters it’s hard to say for sure, because studies like these only answer the “What?” and not necessarily the “Why?” But one can speculate that it’s most likely a combination of environmental factors (pollution), culture and lifestyle choices. Just looking at food, Black immigrants may be more accustomed to eating healthier diets that consist of vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, where in the States, our diet sadly consists of processed meats, junk food and fast food that are high in sodium and salt. Obviously a diet like plays a huge role in developing chronic diseases.

Perhaps the theory is that when immigrants come to the US, they retain their eating habits which could play into why they are somewhat healthier. And there’s past data that suggests this could be the case.

A 2015 study found that when researchers put 20 African-Americans on a South African diet for two weeks and vice versa— each groups’ health changed. According to Think Progress: 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.

And after that time was up, researchers checked their colons and found that the Africanswho didn’t have any issues beforehad developed changes in their gut that scientists say could turn into cancerous cells. Meanwhile,  African-Americans increased the production of butyrate, a fatty acid proven to protect against colon cancer.

So, yes you are what you eat. Chew on that!

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