It is estimated that more than one-third of adults in the United States are obese. This equates to over 78 million people who suffer from obesity. Obesity may be taken lightly by most people, but being obese can increase a person’s risk towards certain medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The chances of having a stroke rise in obese individuals. Another alarming statistic regarding obesity is that it is one of the leading causes of preventable death in America.
If you look back at the last few decades, it is possible to find a relationship between the rise in obesity and the way our diets have changed. Not only are we eating mostly processed food, often deep-fried, but we are also consuming larger amounts of food than we used to. The total caloric intake among individuals has gone up by 400 calories per day. The convenience and availability of cheap junk food has made it easily accessible for everyone to consume. However, the disadvantages of this modern diet are overlooked by most people.
The food we eat today is drastically different from the food that was consumed over 40 years ago. Most of the food then was fresh, some of it actually grown at home. Even though there were plenty of diners and fast food outlets back then, people still preferred eating good fresh food at home.
In contrast, most of today’s food is in some way processed, including the food that you choose to cook at home. The type of food that we consume today is filled with additives, trans fats, colorings, and other various chemicals and ingredients that were not evident in food just a few decades ago. One of the most significant increases in our modern-day diet is the consumption of sugar. People in America consume 22 teaspoons of sugar on average per day. That makes up for 25 percent of a person’s daily caloric intake. If you compare these statistics with past figures, then today’s sugar intake has risen 20 percent since the seventies.
People today are obviously not consuming 22 teaspoons of actual sugar. The sugar that we end up consuming is usually found in juices, desserts, and sauces. This processed fructose is also evident in foods that are advertised as being healthy meals. Because of this, many parents will inadvertently give their kids food that’s high in sugar.
Another significant contributor towards sugar consumption is soda and fruit juice drinks. Beverages like soda have large amounts of sugar in them and are usually considered as one of the worse sugar sources. Many people who know this tend to skip to a so-called healthier alternative by ordering juice instead of soda. The truth is, juice contains a very similar amount of sugar when compared to soda. And, you guessed it, soda and juice intake has also increased dramatically since the 1970s.
Soda drinks increased in popularity at a rapid rate over the last few decades, peaking around the year 2002. Interest in sodas has dipped ever so slightly since then. However, fruit juice has seen a decent increase in popularity since the late nineties and continues to grow in popularity as compared to the decrease in the popularity of sodas. People seem to be under the general impression that juice is much better for you than soda, but this is false.
If you ever thought of striking out that one thing from the modern diet in order to be healthier, then reducing sugar is the key.
The Food We Consume Today
The type of fats that we consume has also changed over the years. The primary consensus regarding animal fats and other saturated fats is that they can be dangerous for you because they are, most likely, a cause of heart disease. However, vegetable oils, such as corn oil and canola oil, that are processed are so dangerous that recent studies have shown that these daily cooking oils are liable to cause hormonal imbalances and metabolic changes in a person’s body.
Repeated use of these oils has also contributed to the current obesity problem. The same can be said for trans fats, which are found in probably every single tasty treat or food in our modern diet. Studies have shown that trans fats, a form of polyunsaturated fats, increase bad LDL cholesterol while not increasing the good HDL cholesterol. Studies show that our use of vegetable oil has significantly increased since the 1960s.
There are also current studies that are focused on the relationship between trans fats and insulin resistance, which drives type 2 diabetes. The sad truth is that, today, many people have replaced heart-healthy butter with margarine that is filled with trans fats.
Some of the types of food that are known to include trans fats are:
- Ice cream
- French fries
- Fried chicken
Even though the consumption of trans fats has been regulated in recent years, we still consume way too much. The consumption of fast foods in the United States has consistently increased at a dramatic rate since the late sixties. A big reason for this is that our go-to food today is processed fast food. We like the convenience of foods that are cooked fast and available to eat on-the-go. No need to prepare a decent breakfast at home when you can fetch a burger at the drive-thru and eat in the car on the way to work. This way, you can get in an extra half hour of work at the office.
This is the perfect solution for productive people. Unfortunately, such food is loaded with trans fats. Even just grabbing snacks from a gas station takes its toll on us. We do this to avoid our hunger during our trip from work to home, instead of just waiting to get home and eat something healthy. These unnecessary processed foods are part of the cause of our terrible modern diet.
The modern diet is the primary reason behind obesity and people becoming sicker than before. More and more people are beginning to adopt the modern diet by abandoning traditional foods in favor of processed food. These processed foods are high in sugar, vegetable oil, and refined flour. On the other hand, eggs are considered to be one of the more nutritious foods out there. Yet our consumption of eggs has also gradually decreased.
Eggs are high in cholesterol, but they do not increase the bad cholesterol in the blood. Nevertheless, people still feel that eggs can cause a negative impact on your cholesterol. Because of this, people began to consume fewer eggs over the course of the years. New studies and diets are more accepting of eggs today and actually promote the consumption of eggs.
The Science of Intermittent Fasting
It makes sense for us to take part in intermittent fasting as our ancestors did for centuries. Some of the reasons why they took part in fasts were for survival and health benefits. Our hunter- gatherer ancestors also took part in intermittent fasting so that they could cope with periods of famine. There is a common argument that it certainly makes evolutionary sense if we, too, undertake similar fasts, as our bodies are designed to cope with such eating habits.
At the moment, there is a large body of research to support the health benefits of intermittent fasting, which is good for both your mind and body. However, the majority of the research has been conducted on animals and not on humans. This is why people are calling for more research and monitoring of individuals that are currently undergoing intermittent fasting. The research that is presently available shows that fasting assists in improving biomarkers of disease, preserves learning and memory functions, and reduces oxidative stress.
These findings are according to Mark Mattson, who is a senior investigator for the National Institute of Aging, a division of the US National Institutes of Health. Mattson conducted studies centered around the health benefits of intermittent fasting on the cardiovascular system and brain within rodents. In his studies, Mattson developed several theories about why fasting provides physiological benefits.
One interesting theory is that, during the fasting period, our cells are under mild stress. Because of this, our cells then respond by adapting to that stress. Our cells accomplish this by enhancing their ability to cope with stress and possibly enhancing themselves in order to resist disease more effectively. The stress that our cells may undergo during fasting does sound negative, but this type of stress can be comparable to the stress that our body undergoes during intense workout sessions in the gym or other vigorous exercise.
These sorts of high-intensity workouts place high levels of stress on your muscles and cardiovascular system. If you spend the right amount of time allowing your body to recover afterward, then your body will become stronger over time. Mattson says that there is a similarity between how our cells respond to the stress of exercise and how our cells respond to intermittent fasting. Mattson has contributed to a specific study in which overweight adults with moderate asthma consumed only 20 percent of their daily caloric intake on alternate days.
This meant that the subjects would perform a fast on one day, then eat normally the next day, then fast again the day after, and so on. The findings were that those who adhered to the diet managed to lose nine percent of their initial body weight over the course of eight weeks. Mattson also found a decrease in stress and inflammation, with an improvement of asthma-related symptoms and overall health.
In other studies, Mattson also explored the effects of intermittent fasting and energy restriction on weight loss and other biomarkers among young overweight woman. These biomarkers included conditions such as diabetes, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease. The findings were that intermittent restriction was as effective as a continuous dietary restriction to improve weight loss. The results were just as positive towards insulin sensitivity and other health biomarkers.