Putting More Numbers to the High Costs of Unhealthy Eating

By Chuck Norris

April 22, 2016 7 min read

Following last week's news that the growing occurrence of diabetes has now become what the World Health Organization is calling a defining issue of concern for global public health, comes a glimmer of hope. For at least some people, adopting drastic changes in diet could be able to, by itself, reverse this disease, which is presently considered incurable.

So says a small clinical trial in England, which studied the effects of a strict 600-to- 700-calorie-a-day liquid diet on 30 overweight or obese people who had lived with Type 2 diabetes for up to 23 years. For the study, they also stopped their diabetes medications. Roughly half of those in the study group had a remission of the disease extending six months after the strict diet was over.

According to Dr. Roy Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University in England and the study's senior author, such findings could lead to a radical change in the medical community's understanding of Type 2 diabetes. "If we can get across the message that 'yes, this is a reversible disease — that you will have no more diabetes medications, no more sitting in doctors' rooms, no more excess health charges' — that is enormously motivating," Taylor tells the New York Times' Roni Caryn Rabin.

While the study, published in Diabetes Care, is a small sampling and questions remain about how long the effect will last and whether it can work for the typical patient with diabetes, it has demonstrated that reversal of the disease can persist for at least some sufferers for half a year if they keep weight off. It demonstrates that such a reversal can also occur in people who have had the disease for many years.

According to King, even short-term remission can reduce or put off some of the serious complications associated with diabetes, like nerve damage, kidney damage, loss of vision, heart attacks and strokes. More importantly, the findings offers hope to millions who have Type 2 diabetes.

Most importantly, it speaks to the preeminent position of diet as an indicator of health — both good and bad. It also coincided with new research from Oxford University, which shows that a widespread adoption of vegetarian and vegan diets could save both millions of lives and trillions of dollars. In the area of public policy related to the food we eat, placing a dollar value on the benefits of the vegetarian diet might add an important missing ingredient to the discussion.

The trillion-dollar figure is arrived at by tallying worldwide preventive health care costs and lost productivity. That figure escalates to as much as $30 trillion annually when also considering the economic value of lost life. In arriving at their calculations, researchers assessed four different scenarios with humans consuming varying levels of meat to evaluate the links between diet, health and the environment. It was found that the lowest level of meat consumption, through a widespread adoption of the vegan diet, could help avoid more than 8 million deaths by 2050, according to the study. A vegetarian diet was found to save 7.3 million lives.

As a point of comparison, consider the escalating costs of prescription medications. According to a report by IMS Health Holdings Inc., annual spending on prescription medicines in this country is expected to increase 22 percent over the next five years, climbing as high as $400 billion in 2020.

Policymakers love to conduct cost-benefit analyses before implementing new rules. So here's an idea: How about beginning to take in the full measure of the economic benefits of policies that will help wean us off the things that are making us sick and steering us toward those things that can make us well? How about taking in a wide scan view of the price we are now paying?

If you need more convincing, then let's start at the polar opposite of healthy eating — fast food. The industry is back in the news at the moment. Seems a new study has discovered that those who eat fast food (as in the majority of Americans) have been found to have higher levels of chemicals in their system that may be causing things like hormone disruption.

Prior studies have shown that a diet of processed food may be of particular concern as a source of exposure for certain plastics chemicals like BPAs. This new study is the largest to look at exposure from fast food fare specifically. The new report, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that people who ate more fast food also had higher levels of a source of chemicals called phthalates, which break down in the body and have been linked to a list of possible health burdens.

The study looked at data from more than 8,800 people who detailed all the food they ate in the previous 24 hours and were then tested. Two specific phthalate byproducts were identified in their systems — clinically known as DEHP and DiNP. People who ate 35 percent or more of their total calories from fast food in the previous 24 hours had around 24 percent higher levels of DEHP compared to people who didn't eat fast food, and close to 40 percent higher levels of DiNP. What was also discovered was that nearly a third of all the people in the study had eaten fast food in the prior day.

"That's a lot," says study author Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. "That alone tells you the public health impact of this type of food preparation."

Do ya think?

Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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