The American Diet Kills

Staff Editor - Antonio Sanchez

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     The United States is known for many things: our culture, our diversity, and our unique form of government to name a few. However, if there is one thing that citizens of other nations and Americans know about is our diet. Over the decades, the American diet, or Western diet as it is known internationally, has paradoxically morphed and remained the same. New diets come and go with claims of weight loss, lowered calorie intake, etc. Hundreds of restaurants and foods are made to be readily available whenever we need food to eat. The United States is the most prosperous country in the world, yet we have the highest obesity rates, the highest amount of diabetics, and high risks for diseases and some forms of cancer. If we are such a successful country with vast amounts of resources and money, why aren’t we the healthiest? We must look at two components in our diet. Firstly, how does our body process food and what does it do in order to use food for energy? Secondly, what is the American diet, how is it different compared to other diets, and why it doesn’t work?

The human body is very efficient when it comes to processing and digesting food. Whenever we eat food, the sugar (glucose) in the food is released into the bloodstream through our mouth, stomach, and intestine. Then insulin is released by the pancreas to put the sugar into our cells to be used for immediate energy. Leftover sugar is converted into fat and stored for later use. Whenever the body runs out of glucose to use, excess fat is broken down into sugar and the process continues. It is important to note that fat and protein hardly release sugar when broken down, unlike carbohydrates (grains, breads, cereals, etc).

Our bodies are not accustomed to the American diet, even though we have been eating relatively the same food for decades. According to the United States Institute of Medicine, the standard American diet consists of 50% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 35% fat. And while the ratio of these macro-nutrients is considered “normal” (macro-nutrients is another name for the three largest food groups), the nutritional quality of these foods are poor. Of the 50% of carbohydrates consumed in America, the majority are refined/processed grains, fried foods, pastries, and sugary drinks. The majority of fat is the synthetic trans fat and the natural saturated fat from fried foods and oils. Protein is derived from processed meats and very little comes from fresh cut meats such as beef, pork and fish.

Because of these skewed ratios, our bodies begin to undergo large amounts of debilitation very quickly. With the large amounts of carbs consumed daily by the human body, sugar levels in the blood rise and cause damage to cells, impede growth and induce memory loss, as well as causing fatigue and nausea. Elevated sugar levels can cause an excess buildup of fat, loss of vision, blood vessel damage, and susceptibility to diseases. After years of elevated levels, the body can suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, blindness, Crohn’s disease, colon and prostate cancer, hypertension, and in more and more cases, death.

Why do people continue to eat the same way for years? There hasn’t been a general increase in overall health. Why haven’t we begun to change our diets? We are the most prosperous and successful country, yet we have pretty poor health. The answer is very simple, but it requires lots of discipline and hard work. Come back next week for the answer we have all been wanting to avoid, but are desperately in need of.

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The American Diet Kills