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The Growing Epidemic of Diabetes in the US and the Westernized Diet

There are many amazing and wonderful things that have emerged from the United States over the course of history. However, one of the things from this country that is often not regarded in a positive way is the Westernized diet. Although it definitely has its merits, a lack of moderation in its consumption may contribute to increased heart disease, diabetes and several chronic diseases.

It is advisable to stay true to the cultural diet that has sustained our ancestors over the years while limiting the processed and fast foods that are part of the Western diet. When we choose to forego the healthy food in our cultural and traditional diets, consume foods that are high in sugar and neglect to practice portion control, we are sustained by a diet that compromises our health and wellbeing.

Here are some consequences of eating poorly:

  • Fifty percent of Americans have pre-diabetes (metabolic syndrome) or diabetes.
  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes increase the risk of heart disease, blindness, cancer and multiple other debilitating diseases.
  • Statistically, Americans’ overall health is getting worse. Over the last decade, pre-diabetes rose from 27 percent to a full 37 percent of the population.
  • Cancer risk goes up by 15 percent for those with pre-diabetes (Source: Diabetologia).

Sugar feeds your body and keeps it running, yet it also feeds cancer cells that generally devour sugar at a level of at least three times faster than healthy non-cancerous cells. Excess sugar also causes damage to your body’s cells, called carmelization. This is measured via a blood test called HA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin), which quantifies how much damage has occurred to your red blood cells over the last 90 to 120 days, the lifespan of red blood cells. The problem reaches far beyond red blood cells, as the vast majority of your cells in your body live a lot longer than 120 days; when sugars run high, like in pre-diabetes or diabetes, other tissues such as those in the brain, heart, liver and blood vessels are also affected. One can only imagine what happens over the course of time when sugars remain high.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition spoke definitively about the diet-related chronic ailments that a large percentage of Westernized people typically suffer:

“In the United States and most Western countries, diet-related chronic diseases represent the single largest cause of morbidity and mortality. These diseases are epidemic in contemporary Westernized populations and typically afflict 50–65% of the adult population, yet they are rare or nonexistent in hunter-gatherers and other less Westernized people.”

Source: Am J Clin Nutr February 2005, Vol. 81 no. 2 341-354

 

Dietary Indiscretions:

The export of fast food and heavily processed foods is continuing to increase. The problem with these food types is that they are largely devoid of nutrients, low in fiber and high in sugar, and can also be called “dead foods.” What are dead foods? These are fast food and pre-packaged food that have little or no enzyme activity, making them much harder to digest and assimilate nutrients from. They are much higher in calories and fats, often in partially hydrogenated fats that are detrimental to cardiovascular health.

The most common characteristics of the Westernized diet that contribute to the onset of diabetes and chronic disease include the following:

  1. High glycemic load. Sugar levels are too high for the quantity of food per serving portion and fiber content.
  2. Low fatty acid composition. Some foods in the Westernized diet are excessively rich in omega-6 fatty acids while being far too low in omega-3 fatty acids. This contributes to increased inflammation, which enhances premature aging and risk for disease.
  3. Lowered macronutrient composition. This is why you will often see the words “enriched with vitamins and minerals,” because processing of foods strips them of many of the naturally occurring nutrients.
  4. Altered sodium-potassium ratio. Lack of moderation when eating Westernized food often leads us to consume two times more sodium, thus increasing the risk for high blood pressure and imbalance throughout the body.

In Conclusion:

There is a general secret for the savvy, health-oriented food shoppers. Shop at the perimeter of the store and avoid the aisles that contain nicely stacked boxes, cans and jars, which all contain food that is potentially detrimental to your health. It is by far better to select your own produce, dairy, seafood and meat products. Lack of portion control when having processed, unnatural foods has been proven to accelerate one’s demise and dramatically increase your personal risk of dying prematurely.

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