The biggest problem facing the western World today is Obesity. More than 50% of us are over our ideal weight and 33% are obese enough to significantly raise the risk of disease and premature death. The most common causes of death in Western society are heart disease and stroke (50%) and cancer (30%).These conditions are significantly impacted by poor diet and obesity. Proper nutrition is one of the greatest weapons against disease. Recent evidence suggests the global epidemic of obesity is related not so much to fat consumption but ingestion of high glycaemic carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice). Many of the weight losing diets of today are based around decreasing the ingestion of these substances. Our bodies use Glucose as a source of energy and these high glycaemic foods are broken down quickly to glucose which is the basic substrate used by our cells for energy. When we are young an active our cells need abundant glucose for energy production. As we get older and more sedentary any excess glucose is converted to and stored as fat. It makes sense then to eat less of these higher energy foods and to exercise more to burn up any excess that may be stored in our bodies as fat.
Simply put, we need to increase our consumption of fruit and vegetables which are low glycaemic carbohydrates. Minimize our consumption of saturated fats and eat more of the good fats such as omega 3 and 6’s, found in fish and most nuts. Mono-unsaturated fats found in olive oil and avocados have also been found to have a beneficial effect on health. The Lyon diet heart study compared a diet high in mono-unsaturated and omega fatty acids (Mediterranean diet) with a standard low fat diet in patients who had already had a heart attack. This demonstrated a significant 75% reduction in subsequent heart attack, stroke and sudden death for those on the Mediterranean diet using liberal amounts of mono-unsaturated and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Diets high in processed foods can also be detrimental to our health. We are all so busy with our lives that fast or convenient foods are a major part of our diet in the Western world today. Multi-national food companies make billions of dollars each year from processed packaged food. Food that can sit on the shelf for a few months allows mass production and is obviously more convenient for all of us living in this fast paced world. One of the problems with this approach is the amount of extra chemicals needed to increase the nutrient content or shelf life and also to make the food more palatable. Dr Samuel Epstein, author of “The Safe Shopper’s Bible” believes the additives, preservatives and colorings contained in these processed foods may be micro-doses of poison which if ingested over a prolonged period of time can eventually lead to disease and possible cancer in the human body. Because we are exposed to thousands and thousands of micro doses of different chemicals over a prolonged period of time, no one can really be sure which agent is related to which disease process-if at all. My advice would be to limit ones consumption of processed foods to a minimum and also educate our children regarding the possible risk factors of consuming these foods over a prolonged period of time.