UofSC researchers seeking participants in soul food health study
Researchers from the University of South Carolina are seeking African American men, and some women, to participate in a two-year food-related study called Nutritious Eating with Soul (NEW Soul study). Eligible men must be between the ages of 18 and 65, have a body mass index between 25 and 49.9, live in the Columbia area, and be willing to participate for the full two years.
UofSC’s Mary Wilson explained that African Americans have a long history behind their cooking methods. “During the time period of slavery, the slaves were adding extra salt, fat and sugar to improve the taste of the scraps and meat they were given. So that has carried through the years to the point where now it’s kind of the norm for a lot of people,” she said. “This can result in high blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease. We are being disproportionately affected by heart disease.”
The study, according to Wilson, will introduce participants to healthier ways of making different types of “soul food.” Men and women involved in the study are randomized to follow either a vegan diet, or a low-fat “omni” diet.
“It’s not that we’re trying to say you can’t have soul food, but we’re trying to see how we can make it low fat. We get creative with it,” said Wilson. “We have local chefs come in and basically demo how they can make soul food dishes more healthy.”
Wilson said there are many benefits to participating, especially for men. There is also a monetary incentive which could add up to $210 over the course of the two years. Other physical activity classes are also offered including Zumba, soul line dancing, and strength exercises.
The main goal of the process is for participants to finish the study having seen a difference in their health, while learning skills that they will continue to uphold. “We’ve already been seeing great results: people coming off cholesterol and blood pressure medication,” Wilson said. “Once they’re done with our program, they’ve got it, they know what to do.”
More information about the NEW Soul study can be found at newsoul.org.