Life expectancy in the U.S. is listed as number 27 or 28 of the 34 OECD free-market democracies. In the video below, Dr. Michael Greger explains how the overall patterns of healthy lifestyles have declined in the last 18 years. When U.S. health trends are examined, they reveal some pretty sobering statistics based on one of the most rigorous analysis of risk factors ever published. What are Americans doing wrong?
In the year 2000, Americans were studied to see how they were doing on four criteria of a healthy lifestyle: not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating five fruits and vegetables a day, and getting 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Only 3% of Americans met this criteria. Research since then tells us that the situation hasn't been improving. Smoking has stayed level, body mass has increased, daily intake of five fruits or vegetables has decreased, and physical activity has declined. Evaluating American's diet scores (where points are given to those who drink less than 4 cans of soda a week) demonstrates that "On a scale of 0 to 5, only about 1% score a 4 or a 5." Healthcare professionals find this trend particularly alarming since we've known for decades that advanced coronary artery disease may be present by age 20 and children as young as 3 can exhibit signs of coronary atherosclerosis.
Of all the lifestyle factors studied, the one that sets Americans apart from the rest of the world is our diet. American life expectancy is dropping because of what we do and don't eat. According to a study entitled The State of US Health, Americans eat too much:
- processed meats -- bacon, hot dogs, lunchmeat
- trans fatty acids -- partially hydrogenated oils found especially in baked goods like crackers, cookies, cakes, and pastries
- sugar-sweetened beverages -- energy drinks and soda
- red meat
On the other hand, researchers found that as a country we eat too little:
- whole grains
- omega 3 fatty acids (preferably from - walnuts, green leafy vegetables, non-GMO soy beans, flax and chia seed)
- calcium (preferably from dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, non-GMO soy beans/tofu, whole grains, nuts)
Americans are literally eating themselves into death and disability. A 2014 study compared four commonly used diet quality indices and found that participants eating a diet higher in whole plant foods had less risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes of death combined. As Dr. Greger points out in the above video, "The number one cause of death and disability in the United States is our diet. There is now an overwhelming body of clinical and epidemiological evidence illustrating the dramatic impact of a healthy lifestyle on reducing all-cause mortality and preventing chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer."
The Starch-Smart® Solution
Americans can improve their national health pretty easily. There are a growing number of physicians like myself who have seen the irrefutable evidence in our own practices that nutrition can improve and often cure the illnesses which are raising our national mortality rate. Americans don't have to suffer and ultimately die from complications of obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Instead, we can eat our way to better health and better national statistics. A diet free of added oils and centered around low-fat vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruit will dramatically improve both life expectancy and quality of life.
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