Dr. Mark Hyman is Fed Up with Our National Health Crisis
What has your experience with Fed Up shown you about the root cause of many diseases?In Fed Up, I met with a family of five to talk with them about their health and understand the roots of their family crisis of morbid obesity, pre-diabetes, renal failure, disability, financial stress and hopelessness. Rural South Carolina, where they live, is a food desert with nearly 10 times as many fast-food and convenience stores as supermarkets.
The family's kitchen was also a food desert, with barely a morsel of real food. There were no ingredients to make real food - only pre-made factory science projects sold in cans and boxes with unpronounceable, unrecognizable ingredient lists. This family desperately wanted to find a way out, but didn't have the knowledge or skills. They lived on food stamps and fast food and didn't know how to navigate a grocery aisle, shop for real food, read a label, equip a kitchen or cook nutritious meals. Their grandmother has a garden, but never taught her children how to grow food, even though they live in a temperate rural area.
What results did the family see when they changed their eating habits?I got the whole family cooking, washing, peeling, chopping, cutting and touching real food - onions, garlic, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, salad greens, even asparagus. After 12 months, the mother had lost 100 pounds and was off of blood pressure medication, and because the father had lost 45 pounds, he finally qualified for a kidney transplant. The son originally lost 40 pounds, but because he was stuck in a toxic food environment at school and only able to get a job at a fast-food eatery, he gained much of it back. I'm happy to report that he is now working to get back on track.
How is sugar a primary factor in creating obesity?Of some 600,000 processed food items on the market, 80 percent contain added sugar. Sugar calories act differently from fat or protein calories in the body. Sugar calories drive food addiction, storage of belly fat, inflammation and fatty liver (now the number one reason for liver transplants). They also disrupt appetite control, increasing hunger and promoting overeating, and are biologically addictive. Sugar calories are the major contributor to heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia and Type 2 diabetes. Sugar is a root cause behind the tripling of obesity rates in children since the 1970s.
As just one example illustrating government policy culprits, although poor people are disproportionately affected by obesity, the food industry vigorously opposes any efforts to limit the use of food stamps for soda. Every year, the U.S. government pays for $4 billion in soda purchases by the poor (10 billion servings annually) on the front end, and then pays billions more on the back end through Medicaid and Medicare to treat related health consequences that include obesity and diabetes.
What are the consequences if we don't attack the problem of poor diet now?The costs of a poor diet are staggering: At the present rate, by 2040, 100 percent of the nation's federal budget will go for Medicare and Medicaid. The federal debt soars as our unhealthy kids fall heir to an achievement gap that limits America's capacity to compete in the global marketplace. At the same time, having 70 percent of young people unfit for military service weakens national security.
In a detailed scientific analysis published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a group of respected scientists reviewing all the data affecting projected life spans concluded that today's children are the first generation of Americans ever that will live sicker and die younger than their parents.
Health issues due to poor diet comprise a national crisis. They threaten our future, not just for those fat and sick among us, but all of us.