The Western Diet: A Bigger Pandemic

The price being paid world-wide for ease and manufactured flavor

Globally, one in five deaths are associated with poor diet, in accordance to the Global Burden of Disease, which tracked trends in 195 countries and included the consumption of 15 different dietary factors from 1990-2017.

Those finds equate to 11 million deaths, each associated with poor nutrition; accumulated choices and food habits that led to a range of chronic diseases in humans world-wide, specifically cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. Dr Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (University of Washington) summarized,

"This study affirms what many have thought for several years -- that poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world."

The 15 dietary elements studied include:

  • Diets low in: fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fiber, calcium, seafood omega-3 fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fats

  • Diets high in: red meat, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fatty acids, and sodium

There is growing awareness that the cause of this leg of evolution lies in the profound changes in diet and lifestyle during more recent human history; and Westernized populations, especially, have grown all too familiar with the presence of chronic degenerative diseases, listed to include:

  • obesity

  • diabetes

  • cardiovascular diseases

  • cancer

  • autoimmune diseases

  • Alzheimer's disease and more

...all diseases which are rare or virtually non-existent in non-westernized populations.

Westernized Peru, e.g.

One example of the impact can be found in Trujillo, a growing city of Peru where, with the expansion, many residents have transitioned from a more traditional lifestyle to urban living; from days of greater activity to more sedentary lives day to day.

When decreased caloric output meets increased access to overly processed and fast foods - items that are seductive, inexpensive and readily accessible, it's totally understandable why the population has experienced an undeniable rise in non-communicable diseases such as obesity and Type II diabetes.

Another major component in Trujillo is the unabating consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which have become a significant part of Peruvian life. Sugar-laden drinks can now be found at every shop and restaurant, making them one of the most accessible and highly-consumed products in Peru.

As Hippocrates said:

"Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.

How we choose to heal or destroy our bodies is a decision by decision method. And while it can be hard to unlearn habits around food, it can be done. May we each uncover our personal motivation and make it a priority to feed it well.

By Sam Jump

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