Americans have poorer health and shorter lives than peers

A new report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council revealed bleak statistics on the comparative health of the citizens of the United States compared to sixteen other high-income countries.

The report revealed that Americans have been dying earlier, on average, than almost all other countries. Of the sixteen countries ranked, American males ranked last in life expectancy and American females ranked sixteenth out of seventeen. The report notes that this trend has been ongoing and progressively worsening since 1980; Americans are dying prematurely with poorer health during their lives. The report states:

“The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.”

The report identified nine key areas in which Americans demonstrate poorer health status; a few of note are the direct results of poor nutrition and lifestyle habits: obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Out of the 17 countries, the U.S. was ranked 2nd in the number of ischemic heart disease deaths and 3rd in diabetes deaths. Americans consume more calories per person than any other country in the world, and our eating habits are killing us. Obesity was a significant contributor to the shortened life expectancy observed in Americans; obesity accounted for 42 percent of the reduction in life expectancy American females and 67 percent of the reduction in males.

It is well known that the U.S. spends more money on health care per person than any other nation.

Photo of falling money

The report noted that Americans have greater “control” over blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and still have the next-to-highest death rate from ischemic heart disease. We take more medication for heart disease risk factors, and yet are more likely to die from heart disease. We spend the greatest amount of money, and die the earliest. More medical care does not buy better health.

It’s time for our country to wake up. Our health, happiness, and economic stability are suffering at the hands of our dietary choices.

There were several additional non-nutritional factors that contributed to the relatively short life expectancy of Americans, including infant mortality rate, injuries and homicides, drug-related deaths, HIV and AIDS.  In addition to disease-causing eating habits, behavioral factors such as drug abuse, lack of seat belt use, drunk driving and gun violence are contributing to the poor health and shorter lifespan of Americans. The report also cited deficits in our health care system, higher levels of poverty and income inequality than other countries, and geographical environments built around cars, which discourage physical activity.

Clearly, there are some issues not under our individual personal control that must be tackled by public policy. However, this report also highlights those factors that we as individuals can address – today – to increase our own likelihood for a long and healthy life: our weight and our risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Excess weight, heart disease, and diabetes are inevitable consequences of the standard American diet plus inactivity, but they are not truly inevitable. We can prevent these conditions by making wiser food choices and prioritizing physical activity. Each of us must take responsibility for our own health and longevity. A high-nutrient diet based on protective plant foods is an excellent place to start.

 

Reference:

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. January 9, 2013. http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/US-Health-in-International-Perspective-Shorter-Lives-Poorer-Health.aspx

Happy Mother's Day!

This Mother’s Day we salute all the mothers who are raising children to appreciate and embrace eating for health. It’s no easy task in the midst of a culture fixated on junk food that’s readily available everywhere one turns.  And it’s even more difficult if we, as moms, are getting a late start in establishing healthy eating habits ourselves.

However, we must persevere and creatively find ways to feed our children high-nutrient foods even if peers, close friends, and extended relatives are eating for disease. The childhood years are laying the foundation for cancer and other diseases to occur later in life; it’s not the time to throw-in-the-towel and give up.

Dr. Fuhrman wrote in Disease Proof Your Child, “I tell parents that if they follow my advice their child will no longer require frequent visits to the doctor. With most frequently ill children, more medicine is not the answer.”

“More and more evidence emerges each year that the diets we eat in our childhood have far-reaching effects on our adult health and specifically on whether we get cancer. Similarly, there is an abundance of scientific research that supports the need for a dietary lifestyle that protects our children from other serious diseases.” 1

 

Moms, let’s keep keeping on!

Happy Mother’s Day!

The above picture was submitted by one of our Disease Proof readers; this is daughter Clara, age 10, enjoying a green smoothie made with papaya, banana and spinach.

 

Blended Mango Salad
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
2  ripe mangos, peeled and chopped or 2 1/2 cups frozen mango chunks
1 cup chopped spinach
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1/4 cup unsweetened soy, hemp or almond milk

Instructions:
Place mangos in a food processor or high-powered blender.
Add the spinach and half the lettuce. Blend until well combined. Add the milk and remaining lettuce. Blend until creamy.

 
 

Waldorf Blended Salad
Serves: 1

Ingredients:
1/2  cup pomegranate Juice
1 apple, peeled and cored
1/4 cup walnuts
4 cups kale and/or Boston lettuce
1/4 cup water or ice cubes 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:
Blend all ingredients in high powered blender.

 

 Related post: Moms, we have the most influence 

 

PS  For the fun of it I'm posting two pictures below that were taken on Mother's Day weekend, exactly four years a part.  The image on the left was taken in 2008, and the image on the right was taken this Mother's Day weekend.  Little did I know twenty-five years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, just how important it would be for me and my family to eat a high-nutrient diet. 

Moms, it's up to us to lead the way and set the example for our children to follow.   We set the pace.  We purchase over 90% of the nation's food supply.  What a privilege and responsibility we have to change the food culture for generations to come. 

Go greens!  Go Moms!   

                                        

1.        Fuhrman, M.D., Joel, 2005, Disease Proof Your Child, pp. xxi,xxii, Martins’ Griffin, NY 

High Fat Foods Can Lead To Brain Scarring

The intimate link between what we eat and the chemistry of our bodies has been demonstrated once again in a provoking new studying published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.1  This study found that high-fat foods, like hamburgers, onion rings, oily pizzas and other regularly consumed fatty foods, actually lead to brain scarring and damage to the hypothalamus- the area of the brain responsible for hunger, thirst and the body’s natural rhythms and cycles.  While the study was done on rodents, its findings remain insightful about what might happen to the human brain when we feed our bodies the unhealthful, high fat diets consumed by most Americans. 

The most prominent finding of the study was that inflammation, or neuron injury, developed in rats and mice just three days after consuming foods fatty meats and refined oils.  Additionally, when the rats remained on this diet long term, permanent damage to the neurons occurred. On the long-term high fat diet, the brain’s attempt to heal the injured neurons resulted in gliosis, a process that leads to scarring in the central nervous system.  The brain’s POMC cells, which play an important role in the body’s fat control system, regulate appetite and prevent excess weight gain, were reduced by over 25 percent.

Given these findings, scientists on the team surmise that losing these critical brain cells is related to why most people who attempt to lose weight by simply reducing calories and exercising more fail to keep the pounds off- they are still consuming high fat American fare that continues to damage the brain’s receptor cells for appetite control and weight gain prevention.

There is much reason to believe that brain damage due to greasy, high fat diets occurs in humans as well as rats.  When examining MRIs of obese and normal weight humans, obese individuals had significantly higher levels of gliosis (brain scarring) that those at healthy weights.  Further studies need to be conducted to determine the connection between brain scarring, brain functioning and weight loss, but it’s safe to say that it’s a good idea to pass on the French fries and cheeseburger. 

It’s also worth noting that fat itself is not bad; it is the type of fat that counts.  The rats in this study were not fed whole food, healthy fats in the form of nuts, seeds and avocadoes, but high fat animal products and fried foods, the deleterious processed types.  As Dr. Fuhrman mentions in detail in his book, Super Immunity, low fat diets can lead to dry skin, thinning hair, muscle cramps, insomnia and poor exercise tolerance among other health problems. 

The moral of this blog post is to avoid processed high fat foods and get enough healthy fats in the form of nuts, seeds, and avocadoes and from supplemental docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to keep your brain healthy and in tip top shape.

 

 

1. Baskin DG, Dietrich MO, Fischer JD, et al. Obesity is associated with hypothalamic injury in rodents and humans. J Clin Invest. 2012;122(1):153–162. 

Are You a Food Addict?

  • Do you enjoy eating a fresh mango or juicy slice of cantaloupe?
  • Do you get excited over the taste of seasoned bok choy with roasted garlic and shiitake mushrooms simmered in carrot juice?
  • Do you look forward to some steamed greens, zucchini, beets, and onions poured over a bowl of warm lentils, currants and sun dried tomatoes?
  • Do you enjoy sweet peppers, red onions, sliced plantain, and shredded carrots in your salads?  Doesn’t a dressing made from blueberries, cashews and a little blueberry vinegar poured over sound good?

cherry tomatoes

  • When cherry tomatoes have ripened on the vine, do you pop the delicious  morsels into your mouth like you used to pop in junk food?  And, feel good that you enjoy the health giving sustenance from nature? 

 

If you don’t genuinely enjoy eating nutrient rich foods, it’s a telltale sign that you have not broken free from toxic food addiction.

If eating for health is a burden, but you force yourself to do it anyway to lose weight or survive; or because you know it’s better than the alternative of premature death, then you are still held captive to the standard American diet.  You are a food addict.  Most likely, when no one is around, or when the food is right there in your vicinity, you make excuses to yourself and eat toxic foods at almost every opportunity.

Many people have trouble breaking free.  For them they need a prolonged period of abstinence to conquer their perverted cravings for destructive food.  Like any drug addiction, in order to be free from food addiction and its all-consuming cravings, you have to abstain from the toxic American diet for a full 8 – 12 weeks, no matter what. 

If you do not strictly follow nutritarian eating for at least that amount of time, your taste buds will never adapt, and consequently you’ll never get to the point that you prefer eating natural, healthy food.   

You have to put in the time of abstinence up front to get the results.  If you’re always jumping back and forth due to toxic cravings, you won’t build the strength and sensitivity in the taste buds that make natural foods so delicious.

In other words, just do it!

You can’t live with one leg in nutritarian eating and one leg in standard American (self-destructive) eating.  It just won’t work, and you’ll miss the wonderful privilege of living in freedom from food addiction and enjoying optimal health.  Yes, there’s a seemingly sacrificial price to pay up front because cravings can be strong and withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, but these disappear shortly and the results will pay you back a hundred fold for the rest of your life!