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SA study finds link between traditional beer, corn storage and esophageal cancer

Refiloe Mpakanyane interviews Dr. Fundile Nyati, CEO of Proactive Health Solutions.

– The study was conducted by researchers at Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha.

– The study revealed that the risk of this type of cancer is increased by the consumption of umqombothi, associated with a fungus present in improperly stored corn.

– The Eastern Cape is reputed to have an exceptionally high number of esophageal cancer cases compared to other provinces


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Researchers from Walter Sisulu University have found a link between high rates of esophageal cancer in the Eastern Cape and the consumption of umqombothi – the traditional beer.

According to his findings, the risk of this type of cancer is increased by the consumption of umqombothi, associated with a fungus present in improperly stored maize.

Previous research has linked the consumption of traditionally brewed beer, often made from corn, to the high incidence of the disease, particularly among black men in the province.

The research also revealed that during the 1930s, the staple diet of black people changed from sorghum to corn, with traditional beer being brewed from corn.

Obviously, it’s not when you drink umqombothi once, it’s chronic and repeated consumption of umqombothi.

Dr. Fundile Nyati, CEO of Proactive Health Solutions

Not every umqombothi will lead to this, as it depends on what was used to make that umqombothi.

Dr. Fundile Nyati, CEO of Proactive Health Solutions

RELATED: Understanding the Effect of Alcohol in Umqombothi

If the corn has been stored correctly and the fungus has not developed, it is not a health concern.

Dr. Fundile Nyati, CEO of Proactive Health Solutions

The study, led by Professor Eugene Ndebia from the Department of Human Biology, also investigated why the Eastern Cape had an exceptionally high number of esophageal cancer cases compared to other provinces.

According to the study, many of the patients seen by the researchers suffered from alkaline reflux, which they had linked to patients eating a corn-rich diet.

Alkaline reflux damages the cells that line the esophagus.

Dr. Fundile Nyati, CEO of Proactive Health Solutions

Listen to the audio to learn more.


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