It seems ridiculous that a nation of obese people (almost 40% of Americans are fat according to recent statistics) could be nutritionally-starving to death, but the plain truth is that we are simply over-fed and under-nourished.
The nutritional value of foods is at risk, with the amount of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables having diminished greatly over the years. One apple today may carry half the amount of nutrients as an apple produced 50 years ago.
So, how exactly is it possible to be starving to death when the average American eats more than 3700 calories a day? An adequate daily caloric count for rural Chinese farmers is around 2600. For professional athletes, they might healthfully consume 3000 calories in a day, but that is with a disproportionate amount of physical activity compared to the general public. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) admits that obesity causes a plethora of disease: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some types of cancers, among them.
Overeating, Nutritionally-Dead Food, and Ineffective Farm Practices
One problem is that even with all of this calorie consumption, people aren’t obtaining the basic nutrients their bodies crave in order to carry out its basic functions. This, in turn, leads to more eating, as the body feels ‘hunger’ as a neurological response to depleted nutritional stores.
Take for example, the chemical process that occurs when we eat high fructose corn syrup (often made from GMO corn). When we eat this nutrition-less black hole of a food, we undergo a fierce cycle of craving and eating instigated by circulating triglycerides. Belly fat was especially pronounced in a Princeton study. Instead of feeling full after we drink sodas or eat packaged, convenience foods that are made with high fructose corn syrup, we feel hungry again. Our natural satiety isn’t quelled and the vicious loop to eat more foods with no nutrition ensues.
Second, many of our agriculture practices have completely ruined the soil we grow food in, so we no longer enjoy the proper nutrients that were once provided for abundantly by just having highly fertile turf on which to plant our crops. We eat too many processed foods, and when we do eat a vegetable or fruit, it often has been grown in a mineral-depleted soil that has been improperly used since at least the 1950’s.
One University of Texas in Austin study has gained particular attention in the media. According to Donald R. Davis’s findings published in HortScience, crops grown in limited space almost always contain lower levels of minerals, vitamins, and protein—by up to 40%, which translates directly to our food.
While obesity rates are staggeringly high in America, they are also elevated in Europe, American Samoa, Tonga, Saudi Arabi, and Egypt. Vietnam, Laos and Madagascar have the lowest obesity rates, and likely because they practice very different agricultural practices and don’t fill up on processed foods. Vietnamese cooking, for instance, relies on fresh seafood, minimal oil, and lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
The paradox of an overfed nation starving itself to death goes back to agricultural practices and simple, good nutrition. Maybe its time to go back to the old saying, ‘if a food makes its own packaging, then eat it.”
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.