Why Do We Have This Disconnect?

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While 75% of Americans believe they eat healthfully, diet plays a part in close to three quarters of all deaths. Why this disconnect?

Most MDs receive little or no training in clinical nutrition and most grossly underestimate the impact their patients diets have on their health. They routinely prescribe drugs to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, and aid weight loss while often leaving their patients with the impression that bad luck and or bad genes have more to do with their ill health than poor diet and inactivity.

Most teachers know little about nutrition and most schools serve mostly foods full of salt, refined carbohydrates, saturated and hydrogenated fats and cholesterol, but low in fiber.

Few students in college take a class in nutrition.

The big food companies mostly advertise their highly-processed foods full of salt, fat, sugar and refined flour and target young children and adolescents even more than adults. Foods that fit poorly into a healthy diet are often advertised as if they were health promoting.

Health insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid may talk about the benefits of eating healthy but they pay relatively little for dietary counseling to teach people how to prevent or even reverse cardiovascular disease. Plus they pay hundreds of billions of dollars for drugs and surgeries that have done little to prevent cardiovascular disease or eliminate deaths and disabilities from heart disease and strokes.

Americans are bombarded daily with reports of the latest research about diet, nutrition and disease. The problem is that those reports often contradict each other and there is no consistent message from the media as to what constitutes a truly healthy diet. Most reporters are fairly ignorant of the scientific process and so cannot put the most recent study in proper perspective.

Fad diet books also add to the confusion.

The result is that most Americans end up more confused than ever about what constitutes a healthy diet.

By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN.

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