Wednesday, 23 April 2014 14:55 Basil Venitis Editorial Dept - Lifestyle
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Addiction to fat, sugar, salt, and cola is killing you. Medical research shows our health is greatly affected by what we eat. Eat an abundant variety of vegetables. Choose a rainbow of fruits every day. Choose whole grains, such whole wheat bread, brown spaghetti, and brown rice. Choose fish, poultry, beans, or nuts, which contain healthful nutrients. Use olive and other plant oils in cooking, on salads, and at the table, because they reduce harmful cholesterol and are good for the heart. Drink water or tea without sugar. Consumption of colas is associated with chronic kidney disease.

Walter Willett , a frequent reader of venitism, muses that every day the government's food stamp program buys Americans 20 million servings of soda, paying billions for a program that fosters the obesity that the government then has to pay again for in increased health care expenditures.

Willett laments the U.S. agricultural policy over the past four decades has created a food system where healthier fruits and vegetables are relatively expensive while high-starch, processed foods and red meats are cheap and widely available. The first farm bill was passed in the 1930s as a way to help the nation's struggling agricultural sector, which at the time not only fed the country but, in a more rural America, also provided many jobs.

With ensuing technological changes in the years after World War II, the United States ramped up its subsidies, steering production toward what at the time was thought to be a healthy diet of starches and meat. The prices of those staples came down in the ensuing decades, while those left alone by government policy — fruits and vegetables — became more expensive. What is cheap today is what we made cheap. What we ignored, we made more expensive.


The problem, Willett says, is that we now know that a healthy diet is not dominated by processed starches and red meat, but is just the opposite. A healthy diet is composed of whole grains, nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables, with red meat in moderation and very little refined starches and added sugar. The result is that today two-thirds of Americans are overweight or even obese, diabetes is rising across USA, and in some parts of the country, life expectancy is actually dropping.

If we judge by its impact on human health, the American food supply is a disaster. We're not using the levers we potentially have to make an impact. It is wrong to blame the farmers for doing what was asked of them by the government. In addition, there is a lot that is right with the American food supply, which made food plentiful and inexpensive.

Subsidies to farmers make up just 15 percent of the farm bill's expenditures. The lion's share of expenditures in the bill go toward providing food for America's poor through what was formerly the food stamp program, and is now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Fat and sugar aren't simply unhealthy, but they hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to drugs. Food is addictive! Lab studies have found sugary drinks and fatty foods can produce addictive behavior. Brain scans of obese people and compulsive eaters reveal disturbances in brain reward circuits similar to those experienced by drug abusers.

Food companies now face the most drawn-out consumer safety battle since the anti-smoking movement took on the tobacco industry a generation ago. No one disputes that obesity is a fast growing global problem. In the West, a third of adults and a fifth of teens and children are obese.

The cost to society is enormous. Moderate obesity reduces life expectancy by four years, while severe obesity shortens life expectancy by ten years. Obesity has been shown to boost the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and stroke. The annual cost of treating illness associated with obesity in the West is estimated at half trillion euros.


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