A recent survey of Americans by Harris Interactive found that nearly two-thirds of those polled say they are ?healthy eaters?. The survey also found that 75% of those age 55 or older reported eating healthy while only 47% of those 18 to 34 considered their eating habits healthy.
Are they right or is this just wishful thinking? Another survey of the dietary habits of American adults found that only about 5% actually consumed a diet that was close to that recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
So, the question remains, are most Americans overzealous about the healthfulness of their dietary habits or do they really have a lot of work to do to follow the Dietary Guidelines?
Diet-Related Diseases Kill Most Americans
Half of all Americans ages 55 to 64 have high blood pressure and most of the rest have prehypertension. More than 90% of those living to age 65 without hypertension, develop it before their 85th birthday. So nearly all Americans will develop high blood pressure sooner or later. Every 20/10 mmHg increase in blood pressure starting around 110/70 doubles the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD).
There?s little reason to believe that factors other than diet play much of a role in the development of hypertension. An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report said even healthy young Americans should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day, but most Americans consume two to three times that amount. More is not healthy since excess salt intake is the primary dietary factor promoting increased blood pressure over time.
The IOM report said ideally older Americans and those with elevated blood pressure should consume less than 1,300mg of sodium per day. Those past 70 should consume no more than 1,200mg per day. It is doubtful that even 5% of Americans routinely meet those guidelines, which may help explain why nearly everyone develops hypertension and CVD kills more than half of all Americans after age 65.
The vast majority of older Americans have too much LDL in their blood because most have diets high in saturated fat, cholesterol and hydrogenated fat. Diets high in junk foods and fatty animal products lead to atherosclerosis and clogged arteries, which have killed more Americans than anything else for decades.
Hypertension and atherosclerosis have been linked to strokes and senility which often leave so many older Americans unable to care for themselves. With 700,000 strokes and twice that many heart attacks each year, it is clear a lot of Americans aren?t eating nearly as healthfully as they seem to believe.
Healthy eating leads to obesity?
We?ve all heard the frightening statistic that nearly 2/3 of all American adults, as well as more and more children, are overweight or obese.
It gets worse. A recent study found that about 90% of men and more than 70% of women are destined to become at least overweight if not obese in their life times.
This is the result of unhealthy diets full of refined carbohydrates and fat and too low in fiber coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.
About 21 million Americans now have diabetes and that number is expected to increase dramatically as the Baby Boomers move into their 50s and 60s.
This Harris survey demonstrates that most Americans need far better nutrition education to better understand what constitutes healthy eating and how they can protect themselves from diet related diseases. The back page to this issue explains the disconnect between the survey and the actual dietary practices of most Americans.
By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN
Americans increasingly have been lead to believe that organically grown foods and supplements promote good health. The afore mentioned Harris survey found that 50% of Americans are buying organically grown foods and many more are taking a variety of food supplements.
The health foods and food supplement industry?s marketing strategy creates the illusion that taking supplements and eating more organically grown foods can dramatically improve health and prevent the ills caused by a typical modern diet.
However, no credible research suggests that ?natural? soda pop produced by Haines is any less unhealthy than Coke and Pepsi.
Is ?organically grown dehydrated cane juice? really any different than sugar? No.
Ads for food supplements greatly exaggerate the benefits while ignoring their risks. Most supplements do little or nothing to negate the harmful effects of a typical modern diet.
Indeed, it is not even clear that food supplements do not cause more nutritional problems than they solve.
Nor is there any credible evidence that organically produced foods are nutritionally superior to those produced with the aid of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
A diet laden with fat, refined carbohydrates and void of fiber is not going to be rectified with organic cane juice and a bunch of food supplements. Sadly, judging by the increasing sales of these products, most Americans believe otherwise.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.