Unless you’ve just dropped in to visit Earth from another planet (in which case might I recommend the Outer Banks – I haven’t been but according to the bumper stickers of 13.5 million Americans it’s legit, Five Guys, and Naked and Afraid – not necessarily in that order), the calamitous state of public health in the US likely isn’t news to you. The prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions are at epidemic levels with no signs of abating anytime soon. And to the extent that we’re aware of it, many continue to perceive these as ‘someone else’s problem’, assuming that as long as we can still see our toes (without a mirror!) we’re in the clear. But the trouble is conditions like these are no longer marginal problems confined to a fringe element of the population; far from it, they’re about as mainstream as Snapchatting. To complicate things, some of the primary culprits – diabetes and heart-disease to name a couple – often go undiagnosed, lying latent until advanced stages. Because of this a change in our perception of health, I’m afraid, is long overdue.
The takeaway here is that our problems typically start with diet, more so with what we’re eating rather than how much, and the resulting disease is indiscriminate, oblivious to age, gender, weight or anything else. Drugs can mask or alleviate symptoms and exercise only does so much. So while our diets are often the problem they’re also the solution, and fixing things will necessitate an understanding of the intersection between food and physiology.
So as bad as the problem is, the good news is that we already have a solution ready-made! It may surprise some to learn that not long ago the incidence of many of our current ailments was only a fraction of what it is today; and if one were to go further back many modern ailments were rare to non-existent. So the question becomes what has happened to our food and lifestyle over time that could have effected such dramatic changes in our health? And while that’s a loaded question which we’ll get to in detail later, a look at the 20th century alone proves very telling. The industrialization of our food supply meant moving away from local, whole food sources and shifting towards refined, processed foods. While this helped with production and availability, the cons – the introduction of chemicals, artificial ingredients and other toxins, the biochemical modification of foods, and the use of copious amounts of sugar, salt and fat – has wreaked havoc on our bodies. It’s no coincidence that the rise of refined and processed foods has coincided with the proliferation of illness and disease in the US, especially over the past fifty years. The solution, not surprisingly, is to revert back to our traditional diet of real, whole foods which deliver the nutrition our bodies need without the toxins they don’t. Sounds simple and straightforward, but clearly it’s something lost on most