The American Diet is Dangerous

Obesity is a glaring problem across dinner tables in this country. In 2016, it was estimated that nearly 39.8% of adults are categorized as obese. The way companies are processing  food is greatly affecting the health of the general public. The American diet is hazardous from production to consumption.

The government employs two agencies to oversee the regulation of the country’s food: The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These agencies are supposed to play a vital role in regulating the substances that are presented to us. The FDA operates under the umbrella that all food and ingredients that are sold between the states are sanctioned by them except for a few items. The USDA regulates meat, poultry, certain egg products and catfish.

While these agencies are tasked with ensuring that food is being sourced ethically and the ingredients won’t cause immediate harm—they are laxer on long term implications. Much of the American diet is derived from processed food, that is any food that has been altered from its natural state. In essence, any food that has been washed, cleaned, chopped, cooked or canned is considered processed.

Most people identify processed food as any food product that has anything added to it—that’s sugar, preservatives, flavors and additives. Foods are categorized by the level of processing they receive.

Types of Processed Food
Data sourced from Harvard School of Public Health- The Nutrition Source, “Processed Foods and Health”

 

It’s reasonable to assume that it’s not harmful to consume processed foods in the confines of a moderately balanced diet. However, consuming ultra-processed foods as the main source of nutrition has proven to contribute to the decline of health among the general population. Nearly 60% of calories in the daily American diet comes from food that has been heavily processed. It provides virtually no benefit to the function of the brain and body and are commonly eaten. In fact, the foods themselves have been bioengineered to trick the body to consume more. The chemicals react with receptors in the brain to produce cravings and feelings of satiety. 

Expanding waistlines are just a precursor to the problems that derive from ultra-processed foods. Obesity presents significant health problems: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and sleep apnea. All of these ailments result in premature death and are preconditioned to be passed to the next generation. 

Families that have moderate or low socioeconomic status are more likely to buy and consume ultra-processed foods because their budgets don’t allow for healthier options. Organic and raw foods can be too expensive and may be unavailable depending on the location.

The ingredients that produce these concerns are regulated and approved by the government as safe and practical for consumption. As long as agencies are signing off on harmful forms of biotechnology and unhealthful food additives; the average American will continue to be at risk. Healthy food should be available without consequence. The ability to eat healthy ought not be considered a luxury.