We in the United States are extremely fortunate. The total wealth and prosperity far exceeds that of most countries in the world. Just walk into your typical supermarket and you will see huge variety and selection. Our food production capability is so great that we are able to export large quantities of food throughout the planet. With such a rosy picture, you would think that the citizens of this country enjoy extraordinary health benefits. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
In point of fact, our population is starving; starving, however, for wholesome and nutritious food. We are a society that consumes large quantities of harmful partially hydrogenated fatty acids, processed and fast foods overloaded with sodium and sugar. Our foods are totally refined and devoid of adequate levels of most nutrients. Just read the labels and look at the sugar carbs (high), sodium levels (high), fiber levels (low) and vitamin/mineral levels (low or missing entirely). Obesity and diabetes levels are sky rocketing.
So how bad is the situation? In the February 2003 edition of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, over 1,200 adults living in Olmstead County, Minnesota were contacted by phone during a several week period in 1999. The survey noted that only 16% of the population in this survey reported meeting standard dietary recommendations for consuming both five or more servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day and no more than 30% of calories from fat. 51% of the population actually did not meet either recommendation. It was concluded that few individuals in Olmstead County were meeting the national recommendations for intake of fruits, vegetables and dietary fat.
Perhaps you would say this was an aberration, not typical for a U.S. population. Unfortunately, the results of this survey were actually better than many other studies done in the last several years.
Many years ago the federal government set up a standard for minimum vitamin and mineral intake known as the RDA and is now called DV (daily value). This standard was developed not for purposes for optimizing health but rather minimum nutrients necessary to prevent disease such as scurvy and beri beri. The RDA for vitamin C in an adult is only 60 mg and only 30 units for vitamin E. Clinical studies have demonstrated that dosages perhaps 10 – 30 fold or more are necessary for optimal health. So even with these low RDA standards, I am sorry to report that the United States population has not done very well.
In one study conducted in an elderly population, 2/3 of the surveyed group did not even receive the RDA for multiple nutrients and vitamins. Similar results have been reported in other age groups from early infancy on up. As a matter of fact, in the prestigious journal Pediatrics from September 1997, a study indicated only 1% of children between the ages of 2 and 19 ate a healthy diet. When the data was further reviewed, it was noted that 40% of the energy the children were receiving were from fat and added sugar.
Do you know what the most common vegetable children consume is? French fries. This is probably the most unhealthy food on the planet, full of sodium, fried in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (known to cause cancer and heart disease), full of simple carbs and contains virtually no healthy protein or fiber. This food should not be counted as a “healthy” vegetable.
These poor eating habits are clearly having an effect on our nation. In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in June 1998, 200 children and young adults were autopsied after being involved in fatal accidents. In the autopsy, children between the ages of 2 to 15 fibrous plaqueing was noted in 8% of coronary arteries. This fibrous plaqueing is the earliest manifestation of coronary artery disease. In the autopsied individuals between the ages of 16 to 20, 35% had fibrous plaqueing in their coronary arteries. And by the mid 20s and early 30s, an amazing 70% had this abnormality noted.
Even if you try, it is almost impossible to get adequate nutrition from our food supply. The reason for this is quite simple. Over years, the mineral content in our soil has been depleted. In the 1950s a researcher by the name of Dr. Bear from Rutgers did an extensive study of the food supply in this country. He found that the variation in mineral content in various foods varied dramatically. For example, one study looking at 3 ½ ounces of tomatoes, he found the amount of magnesium varied between 8 mg to 109 mg. In addition, the way we harvest our food supply has an effect on the vitamin content. Premature picking of foods, transportation and long term storage can significantly cut down on the vitamin content. For example, carrots that are harvested early will have only ½ to 1/3 the vitamin A content they would if they were left to fully ripen.
So what’s the answer?
Try your very best to reduce the amount of fried foods. Try to eliminate as much sugar and simple carbohydrates from your diet as possible, replacing them with whole grains, protein and fiber. And, of course, it is important to take proper nutritional supplementation to get essential nutrients your diet may not be providing.
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