What’s Eating at America’s Health? Who is to Blame for Your Poor Health?
Updated: Jun 17
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ~Rob Siltanen
I am a mom. A plain and simple mother who wants to feed her family healthy food and keep them well. I want simplicity. I am not interested in the explaining the complexities of carbohydrates, fats, and lipids, disassembling amino acids, or the magic of omega 3. Quite frankly, the way in which nutrition is written is part of the crisis of health care. We should not need a degree in chemistry, biology, nutrition, or medicine to comprehend what we should be eating. I represent the missing perspective of the mother who is struggling to put a meal on the table for her family. The mother who meal plans week after week and drudgingly drags herself to the grocery store or orders online and feeds everyone. The woman who takes her children to the doctor and worries about what everyone is eating or not eating. This blog represents one mom’s perspective of why we eat like we do and why our health is failing as a nation. We need simple terms and logic what to eat and why. Average Americans do not want to count carbohydrates nor can they identify a good carbohydrate versus a bad one. None of us have time in our busy lives to dissect every meal and figure out continuous proper proportions for their calorie counters or point systems. I am grateful to nutrition science, but as I pore through the body of work in this field and the complicated manner in which it is communicated, I believe that part of the problem is the perspective of the physician as well as science’s continual pursuit of the golden pill of nutrition from one single ingredient.
Nutrition is like boiling the ocean. The complexity is immense, so each industry picks up a tiny piece and feeds it back to the American public. We are on a roller coaster ride where scientists identify one fad food or property that might “save” us and it becomes the rage. Examples of this include vitamin E, omega 3, gogi berries, soybeans, coffee, grapefruit, protein, and gluten. Then you have the producers who quickly react to the scientific study and build up an array of products like snake oil sellers that are focused on this one miracle cure. Labeling, advertising, and marketing changes reveal now that their food has the magic to “heal” you with buzzwords like “gluten free,” “antioxidants,” and “protein.”
Food producers are not the only ones involved in the breakdown of our health care system and our nutrition as a nation. Doctors are also at the top of the list. Doctors take an oath that they will “prevent disease whenever . . . [they] . . . can, for prevention is preferable to cure,” but many doctors do not address preventative medicine. They do not talk about nutrition as the best and first medicine, but rather act as a branch of the pharmaceutical industry, always ready to write a prescription.
Let’s not leave out the pharmaceutical industry and its three-minute commercials for the next best drug with only two hundred side effects! And lastly, there is the government, which we pay with our taxes to help keep us safe, but which has allowed the dairy, meat, processed food, fast food, and other lobbyists to affect the recommendations, regulations, labeling, and dietary guidelines that are supposed to keep us healthy.
And yes, we pay for all of this craziness in our society. We pay for the grants that fund the scientists through our taxes. We pay for the products that we buy, and a portion of this money goes to advertising. We pay for our doctor visits. We pay for drugs every year to “fix” us. And we pay for health care. Americans spent $3.6 trillion in 2018 on health care. And don’t be fooled—we pay for the entire bill, whether it is through our taxes, out of our own pocket, as a copay to an insurer, or a benefit from our job that negatively affects our pay check.
Source: Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; National Health Expenditure Data; Table 3—Source of Funds
In 2018, national health spending exceeded $11,172 per person.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which collects global information regarding health care, the United States spends much more on health per capita than all other countries, two and a half times greater than the global average per capita and 50 percent higher than Norway and Switzerland (the next-biggest-spending countries). The United States has the highest use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed axial tomography (CAT) scans. We also spend the most money of any country on drugs, $335 billion in 2018, which equates to one-third of the global pharmaceutical industry. And we spend all of this money and do not even have universal health care like the other top forty wealthiest nations in the world.
Even after the Affordable Care Act, only 91 percent of Americans are insured. What are we getting for our money? Not health.
The World Health Organization reports that the United States is thirty-first worldwide for average life expectancy, at 79.3 years. If we are spending over $11,000 a year per person in health care, should we not be living at least past 80? There are twenty-nine countries that have an average life expectancy above 80 years old—but not us. The United State ranks forty-fourth worldwide in deaths of children under age five at 6.5 deaths per thousand. This is a shame. These are our nation’s children! A country spending more money per person on health care is usually associated with lower mortality rates and higher life expectancy, but this is not the case for the United States.
We have been throwing money at our health care and for what? More drugs, sicker people, a lower life expectancy, and a higher mortality rate for our children. Is that the legacy that we want to leave for our kids?
With the amount of money we spend on health care, we should have phenomenal health. But look at us, we are paying for the continued propagation of affluent diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, strokes, and diabetes. The leading causes of death annually in the United States are predominantly preventable diseases:
Leading Causes of Death
· Heart disease: 614,348
· Cancer: 591,699
· Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101
· Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053
· Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103
· Alzheimer’s disease: 93,541
· Diabetes: 76,488
· Influenza and pneumonia: 55,227
· Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,146 (kidney disease)
· Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773
Source: Health United States, 2015 Table 19 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm
We know as a nation what prevents these diseases. There is a body of evidence that supports the prevention of them. And as a nation, we are not listening.
It’s estimated that as much as 80 percent of all healthcare dollars are spent on treatment of conditions that are preventable.
At the end of the day, there is one more culprit in the line of the responsible parties for America’s breakdown in our health as a nation. It is you and me. We walk around exhausted from overworking and malnourishing ourselves by making poor choices regarding our nutrition. Quite possibly, we are in a position where we don’t even know what a good nutritional choice is anymore. Instead of making changes in our lives and choosing to eat better, many of us just want the “golden pill” or a “silver bullet.” Just give me a pill to fix my blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes. As long as I can still eat my fried chicken, steak, and ice cream, then I am happy to take a pill, regardless of the side effects. It is so much easier to take a pill every day than to confront the food choices that we make for our instant gratification. We choose to propagate our family illnesses to our children rather than to make nutritional changes. We choose to make ourselves unhealthy and our children unhealthy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
70 percent of adults are overweight;
20 percent of children are overweight;
12.6 percent of adults have diabetes;
33.5 percent of adults have high blood pressure; and
8.5 percent of adults have cancer
The cures for all of these diseases are related to our nutrition.
Therefore, it is impossible to separate the outputs of illness or good health from the input of what we consume, including food and pills. Nutrition and health are inextricably linked and perpetually inseparable. The objective of this blog is to understand our personal legacy, our legacy as a nation and to create a better future for our children. How did we get here and how do we dig ourselves out? Why are we undernourished and overfed? What is our legacy of food, nutrition, and health care? Why is our country so sideways? And how do we move forward to create a better legacy for our children? The objective of this blog is also to explain food choices in layman’s terms and to provide an extremely simple guideline for making good choices regarding nutrition and good health for our families and our nation.
I want something simple that we can all understand, to provide for the future of our kids. A nutritional guideline that requires no counting, no overthinking, no fad, no dieting, no in-depth knowledge of carbohydrates, lipids, or proteins. A nutritional guideline that allows us to evolve into our best selves—one step at a time. We will learn together why we eat like we do, what we should be eating and what we should be feeding our children. As a nation, we can evolve together. Thank you for caring enough about yourself, your children, and our collective legacy to read this blog.