Saturday, November 19, 2011

Does the Western Diet and Lifestyle Cause Disease?

You may not be aware of this, but evidence is building that shows that the Western diet and lifestyle (which includes the American diet and lifestyle) causes disease. (1, 2) Today, industrialized (and developing) populations are currently plagued with modern diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity), which were very uncommon just 100 years ago. (1)

When you ask why we become diseased as we get older, you are normally told that these diseases are just the natural consequence of living longer; they are simply normal diseases of aging. (3) However, after you start doing some research, you'll quickly discover that humans have evolved the ability to experience incredible health and vitality well into their 70s and 80s, so long as they enjoy their traditional diet and lifestyle. (1) This means that the health problems that we now regard as inevitable are actually not normal at all: Our modern civilization has introduced foods and behaviors that create a dysfunctional human body. (1, 4)

Heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes are not diseases that humans normally experience. (1) These modern diseases have only become more prevalent within the last 100-200 years, and only within populations that have adopted the Western diet and lifestyle. So, what have we changed within the last 100-200 years?

We Eat More...
  • Refined sweeteners like sugar, corn syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Engineered foods that come in a bag, box, or can.
  • Plant toxins and anti-nutrients from industrially-processed wheat and soy.
  • Omega-6-rich polyunsaturated oils from nut and seed oils.
  • Chemical food preservatives and taste enhancers like salt and monosodium glutamate.
  • Calories from energy-dense cereals like wheat, millet, oats, and rye.
  • Pasteurized dairy from specially-bred cows fed grass clippings, grains, and ethanol waste.
We Eat Less...
  • Nutrient-dense foods like organ meats, root vegetables, and fruit.
  • Seafood and shell fish like salmon, shrimp, and clams.
  • Raw dairy from cows that freely graze on green grass.
  • Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi.
  • High-quality protein from vegetables, animal meats, and raw dairy.
We Experience More...
  • Chronic stress, which elevates hormones that remove lean mass, add fat mass, and accelerate aging.
  • Alcohol intake (alcohol is a conditional risk factor, which I will talk about in a later post).
  • Cigarette smoking (smoking is also a conditional risk factor, which I will talk about in a later post).
We Engage in Less...
  • Physical activity, which reduces our lean muscle mass.
  • Sunlight Exposure, which reduces our vitamin D levels.
  • Sleep, which elevates hormones that remove lean mass, add fat mass, and accelerate aging.

You also have to understand that the odds of developing disease are relative in our Western society. As a category, people who are defined as having a "healthy" diet and lifestyle in a Western population will generally have lower odds of being afflicted with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, or cancer when compared to other less "healthy" people living in the same population.

However, when you compare this healthy, lower-risk Western group with a non-industrial population following their traditional diet and lifestyle (e.g., Kitavans, Masai), you find that this Western group still has very high odds of developing modern disease. That's because these traditional, non-industrialized populations typically have zero chance of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or obesity, and very low odds of developing any kinds of cancer. (1)

It was often argued that these traditional populations were somehow genetically immune to modern diseases. Unfortunately, when individuals from these traditional populations move into a Western population, they also develop modern diseases. When these individuals return to their original habitat, their acquired diseases generally stop progressing or completely disappear. (1, 5)

Clearly, as far as disease is concerned, there is a HUGE difference between the diets and lifestyles of Western and Traditional populations: One causes disease and the other doesn't.

1. Lindeberg, Staffan. Food and Western Disease. UK : John Wiley and Sons, 2010.
2. The Western Diet and Lifestyle and Diseases. Carrera-Bastos, Pedro, et al. s.l. : Research Reports in Clinical Cardiology, 2011, Vol. 2.
3. Aging-Associated Diseases. [Online] [Cited: November 19, 2011.]
4. Jaminet, Paul. Perfect Health Diet. s.l. : YinYang Press, 2010.
5. Price, Weston A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. La Mesa, CA : The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Inc., 2008.

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