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Dr. Denis Burkitt, the Fiber Man - Dr. Hans Diehl

Do you know who Dr. Denis Burkitt is? He is the Fiber Man who discovered dietary fiber! Dr. Hans Dielh explains how by analyzing the stool, Dr. Burkitt made the stunning correlation between constipation and fiber.
Dr. Hans Diehl: "You cannot talk about fiber and the discovery of fiber unless you talk about the man who was behind it all, Dr. Denis Burkitt (Denis Parsons Burkitt). A person from England, well renowned for the discovery of the Burkitt lymphoma, it carries his name. He spent 20 years in Africa and, as he became famous because of the discovery of a special cancer affecting the salivary glands in children in Africa, he then became also interested in making some interesting observations. He was a man that looked carefully at his world, and even at stools, and it is a very interesting idea. Denis Burkitt noticed that the disease that he was trained to take care of as a surgeon in England, he just couldn't find. He was trained to take care of gallbladder disease, he was trained to take care of hernias and yet these diseases were virtually unknown in Africa where he spent 20 years. He was actually stunned: why do we have this disease differential? 
He asked himself the question: why do we have so much of this Western disease? That's what he called it. And we don't have these diseases in Africa, why? Could it be related to the difference in the diet? In England the diet is very refined. You have plenty of meat, you have plenty of puddings, you have plenty of refined foods. This is the British diet. In Africa, very different, it's gritty, it's coarse, it's grains and beans. And it began to ask himself the question: could it be that the difference in diet could also make a difference in these diseases? 
And then something happened that changed everything. What happened? He noticed the size (are you ready for this?) of African stools. They were large, they were moist, they had a large base, they were apparently much heavier. And somehow as you looked at the shape of the African stools, they always seem to have sort of like a little tail at the top. It was like one of these Hershey Kisses, you know, those chocolate things? Because the stool was moist, he began to ask himself the question: could this explain some of the difference in the disease rates? Because in England the stools were totally different: there were hard, there were small, as a matter of fact he said: “They almost look like rabbit pellets”. And he said: “Could I possibly relate this to the diseases there?” 
And this then was the beginning of the discovery of fiber. And Dr. Burkitt particularly begin to think about the problem of constipation. He remembered in England it was always a very kind of a painful experience. I mean, people were always feeling relieved when everything had processed and everything was out. In Africa people just... it was very simple process, there would do what they had to do and it was gone. In England they were sitting on the throne, literally. They would read the Reader's Digest from front to the end. I mean, it took seemly time to get everything done there.
And he began to think about this and he wondered: “How long does it really take for food to go for the entry point to the exit point? What is the transit time of food to go through the system?” And he begin to think about this: “Maybe I can do an experiment”. And so he approached the African people that were part of his patient clientele and he give them an experiment. They had some of these deep red berries in Africa. And he said to these African people: “I want you to eat those berries and then I want you to take a look at your stool. I want you to tell me when you find the red colored stool”, that he expected to be present. And he expected these people to come back after three/four/five days to say: “Dr. Burkitt we found it!”
Well, he was actually shocked that within 24 hours many of these villagers, many of these patients can back to and said: “Dr. Burkitt, Dr. Burkitt, we found it! We found it! It's red, it's there!” He was shocked because he sort of remembered that in England it would take about three to four to five days for the transit time of food. It would take three to five days before the food will actually come out again.
What could make the difference in the transit time? From 24 hours to 3 to 4 to 5 days in England. In Africa fast, in England slow. Could that be related to the problem of constipation? Could that be related to the moist stools in Africa and hard dry stools in England? And this led to the discovery of dietary fiber. And this led to the discovery of the magic of fiber with all of its complexity which appeared to be so simple initially, but it began to unravel as one of the key elements in the discovery of the cause of certain diseases of the intestinal tract".
This is a video of the web-tv Veggie Channel.
Director: Massimo Leopardi
Editor: Julia Ovchinnikova

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Hans Diehl

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