How Can Junk Food Affect Your Health?
We now live in a world where fitness and the importance of a healthy diet are widely promoted. Fresh foods are available year-round irrespective of season. We have unprecedented access to gym equipment and motivational products.
Nutritional supplements are used by millions. Manufacturers promise us that a diverse range of foods now have less fat, more vitamins, or are enhanced in one way or another ... and technology makes the storage and preparation of healthy meals easier than ever before.
And yet obesity, Type2 Diabetes and other medical conditions are at an all-time high. Have you ever wondered WHY?
Before you devour your next fast food meal or wander through the supermarket trying to identify the unhealthiest junk in the junk food aisle (so you can avoid it and think you are doing your body a favour), take a moment to digest this news.
Junk food can affect your health in ways you have not dreamed of.
Will kids die younger because of junk food?
In a television interview aired in October 2008, international child health expert Dr Fiona Stanley warned (as she pointed to herself) “our generation might be the last generation that can expect to live longer than our parents.”
Dr Stanley is a baby boomer, like me. Our generation might be the last generation that can expect to live longer than our parents. (How old are you?)
My parents lived longer than their parents, who lived longer than their parents did. Modern medicines, technology, surgery, diagnostics, and other medical marvels combined with improvements in hygiene and living conditions greatly improved each generation’s chances of living a longer life.
Suddenly, however, our confidence in a hospital’s ability to heal us and send us home – and a doctor’s ability to prescribe an appropriate remedy for whatever ails us – has been shaken.
What's happened to our health?
Obesity is at an all-time high
Type 2 Diabetes is at an all-time high
Complications associated with obesity and Type 2 diabetes cannot be effectively controlled or reversed using mainstream medicine’s tools
Antibiotics, for so many years prescribed immediately at the first sign of many symptoms, are no longer considered appropriate and/or effective and are actively being withheld by many doctors
Drugs relied on by millions to treat chronic conditions including arthritis have been declared unsafe and withdrawn from sale
Allergies and asthma are increasing not decreasing
More couples require medical intervention to conceive
More children have chronic medical conditions
Effective health care, for many, is increasingly difficult to obtain.
It might be nothing more than coincidence that our general health has deteriorated in the decades since fast food outlets with questionable nutrition have grown in popularity. Perhaps junk food's popularity has nothing to do with our declining health, you may say.
However at a time when effective health care is increasingly difficult for many people to obtain, there are questions that need to be answered.
What is a healthy fast food lunch?
Is there any such thing as a healthy fast food lunch? Yes, if you can find a source of fresh, organic foods prepared and ready to serve quickly. If you can't find organic meals, a salad from a salad bar might have to suffice. But the healthiest option for any lunch is food you choose and prepare for yourself. Pack your own lunch and bring it to work with you.
If you rely on fast food outlets for lunches that lack nutrition, and make little or no effort to provide your body with genuine natural nutrients each day, how do you expect to remain healthy?
Folk who rely on fast food more frequently than preparing their own healthy, nutritious foods, are walking a dangerous path. Your long term health requires regular nutrition.
Can dietary supplements compensate for junk food?
The healthiest among us are definitely those who gain all the energy and nutrients their well-balanced bodies need from fresh, whole foods (without chemical additives and preservatives) … and, equally important, without storing unnecessary excess energy or nutrients.
Excess energy sounds like a good idea … until you see it stored as fat.
Similarly, dietary supplements sound like a good idea to address nutritional deficiencies … until you see them become the only source of nutrients for people whose diets are completely inadequate.
And even then, sadly, the pills and potions are simply incapable of filling every role of good foods … despite how much money is spent, or how many pills and potions are taken.
Results of the original research conducted by Francis Marion Pottenger Jr.
Effects food of the parents can have on children (and grandchildren)
During the 1930’s in a medical testing laboratory in Pasadena, California, the potency of adrenal hormone extracts was tested on cats.
Dr Francis M. Pottenger Jr. kept many caged cats and discovered that cats carefully fed cooked meat, cod liver oil and pasteurized milk (a seemingly healthy diet) were significantly less healthy than cats given uncooked foods.
So, for instance, cats fed uncooked meat and raw milk were unquestionably more healthy than those fed cooked meat and/or pasteurized milk.
Further tests to establish the most effective feeding regime for his cats revealed that the health of future generations was largely determined by the food (and health) of the cat’s mother ... and the mother’s mother.
Over several generations the cats fed exclusively on raw foods developed wider faces, broader pelvic girdles, stronger teeth and more solid bones than their predecessors. They reproduced readily and had a lengthy lifespan.
But when the diet of the healthiest cats was changed to include prepared cooked food, their health declined.
And after three generations the cats were smaller, their bones less solid, their faces narrower, their teeth crooked, their pelvic girdles were narrower and their lifespan was much shorter. Breeding was no longer as successful and mother cats were less inclined to nurse their young.
Personality changes were also noted.
Evidence presented about nutrition and health - including Pottenger's cats.
Can long term 'junk food damage' be reversed?
De Pottenger discovered that reversing the damage caused by eating inappropriate foods took a further four generations.
Yes, it took a full four generations of being fed exclusively on raw food diets (the traditional, natural and appropriate diet for cats) before any cats again exhibited the most positive traits attributed to the uncooked meat and raw milk. There were progressive improvements as soon as the diet was changed, but the return to optimal health and fitness took a full four generations.
Clear lessons were learned from Dr Pottenger’s breeding and feeding regimes. Among them: -
Cats can best access nutrients from uncooked meat and raw milk
Their metabolisms are unable to effectively adapt to dietary changes
The health of a cat is clearly influenced by the health of maternal bloodlines ... and
Perfect health cannot be restored in a single generation.
So what else should we have learned??? Surely there are huge implications for humans.
What effects do you think junk foods have on our health?
Do you think junk foods, fast foods, and changes in general foods contribute to declining health?
What have we done to our foods?
Perhaps at this point in Dr Pottenger’s research nearly a century ago, alarm bells should have begun ringing worldwide. If they had, many of today’s health issues might have been avoided.
Instead of being so quick to embrace the technology that put pasteurized milk and processed flour in everyone’s kitchen, humans may have given greater consideration to the long-term effects on future generations before shifting even further away from traditional diets that suited our metabolisms and allowed us to best access nutrients necessary for our own optimum health.
In turn, we may have been less inclined to adopt the culture that developed around convenience foods. Meals from outlets like KFC and McDonalds are no longer considered an occasional treat; for many people they are the basis of a regular diet.
Frozen ‘TV dinners’ – once considered the domain of sad and lonely bachelors incapable of preparing a healthy meal – have risen to a position of such respectability they now feature in every family’s freezer.
Something as simple as the humble boiled egg (for years considered one of the quickest and easiest meals to prepare by anyone in a hurry) is now considered a major undertaking in kitchens where the microwave dominates.
And despite the fact that many young people think they ‘discovered’ fast foods, take-away meals and microwave dinners, the reality is that many people now in their 50s and even their 60s have spent decades eating similar diets. Some admit they could count the number of meals they’ve cooked ‘from scratch’ using only fresh foods “on one hand with a couple of fingers missing”.
And this, I suspect, is the real reason behind our widespread health problems. We no longer provide our bodies with the nutrients every body needs. And each new generation is repeating the same mistake.
Yes, many people may be eating the same types of foods humans thrived on for thousands of years ... meat, vegetables and fruit. But we are not eating them in the same way that our bodies prefer for effective processing.
Plus, instead of restricting ourselves to a diet of healthy foods, we shovel junk foods into our mouths day after day, and expect our bodies to cope with the onslaught of man-made preservatives and chemicals accompanying them.
Just like Dr Pottenger’s cats, I believe that our collective health suffers as a result. Even though we may be eating the same type of foods as our forefathers did, it seems we are unable to access the necessary nutrients, our metabolisms are unable to effectively adapt to the changes, our bloodlines are passing down ‘ill health’, and we are unable to restore ‘perfect health’ in one generation.
But while we may not be able to restore perfect health in one generation, we should at least try. Any improvement in the health of an individual is not just an improvement for the individual … but also represents long-term improvement for those future generations yet to come.
How Junk Food and Fast Food became popular
Sliced bread and the pop-up toaster were major innovations when I was a child (I was born in the 1950’s) and every time new convenient food products were released, feeding the family just became easier. Television advertising promoted the latest developments and most mothers were quick to respond.
When told that sliced white bread was a healthy choice for families, mothers worldwide responded. In time margarine replaced butter, milk products lacked any obvious sign of cream, fresh herbs and spices vanished from kitchens, and so many staples including bags of flour and boxes of bicarb soda no longer featured on the shopping list. Packages of dehydrated pasta and sauces, instant gravy, and pre-mixed meals made in factories soon lined up in the pantry.
No-one talked of preservatives in the way they do today.
The microwave oven was considered a groundbreaking convenience when it was launched ... just as the electric washing machine had been years before. Fantastic cookbooks with bright glossy photos helped allay any early suspicions and fears. But then mealtime became even easier with a plethora of pre-packaged foods made ready for microwaving and secured the microwave’s position in most homes.
Television advertising targeted children as consumers. Ronald McDonald convinced children that meal time could be fun if they ate at McDonald’s, and children’s novelty toys and playgrounds became part of the package. Such fun could never be had at a dining room table … no wonder children lost interest in eating at home.
Television introduced children to brightly colored packets of cheesy, salty, and salt-and-vinegary snacks and other goodies that were easily identified on store shelves. And the advertising gurus who came up with the flashy attention-grabbing adverts and jingles proved they were worth their weight in platinum as children pressured parents to allow them to indulge in the fun.
Just weeks ago an elderly couple were laughing as they told me about their son who has hated the taste of white chocolate his entire life … but was such a great fan of ‘the Milky Bar Kid’ in tv advertisements as a child that he insisted they buy him a Milky Bar every time they spotted one in a store. He collected the wrappers and kept them in a special box with his cowboy suit and plastic guns to show to his friends when they came to visit.
His mother ate the chocolate bars and blames her life-long weakness for white chocolate on a young actor on television who swaggered through swinging doors in his Western costume to the chorus “Hey look, it’s the Milky Bar Kid!”
Countless food products have been bought by mothers over the years because they promised to put smiles on kids’ faces. Some just showed children having a good time, but a lot also included an image of mothers being appreciated.
Fruit and vegetables were boring by comparison, (what a shame they didn’t fight back with comparable publicity in those early years). So many exciting options were available for breakfast, lunch and dinner … and of course, snacks in between.
Admittedly I was always careful of ‘moderation’ and have always insisted on fresh foods including fruit and vegetables more often than my children would like (following the example set by my mother), but with the benefit of hindsight there are foods I would have avoided completely for myself and my children had I known then what I know now.
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Who do we blame for declining global health?
We are what we eat. And our children eat the foods that we provide.
Can we blame our predecessors for having a less than perfect diet while they survived the Great Depression, or struggled to make ends meet during personal hardship? Of course not.
It is unrealistic to expect previous generations to have had the same knowledge and insight into nutrition and lifestyle choices that is available today. But in 2014 we know that obesity is harming the entire population of the world. And we know that Type 2 Diabetes is a global problem that must be addressed.
In my mind there is a huge difference between health issues caused by hardship and deprivation ... and even worse examples of the same health problems caused by laziness and excess.
Blame gets us nowhere. We have to accept the past ... but surely it is time we all make an active effort to create a better future for the generations to come.
I see no value in apportioning blame, but I do believe it is appropriate to apologize to our children.
We should be explaining to our children how important it is to restrict ourselves to healthy foods, prepared in the traditional manner - not bought from fast food outlets. We should not ignore the obvious facts linking unhealthy junk foods with declining health.
How do we fix it?
I am a great believer in accepting personal responsibility for mistakes we make in our own lifetimes. My diet is my decision. If I eat deep-fried foods and drink sugar-laden drinks, I have no-one to blame but myself.
The same goes for you.
But I believe that the evidence around us urges us all to have a much greater vision of the implications of the food we eat today.
Why? Because my children and your children will bear the consequences of our dietary choices, just as it seems you and I are bearing the consequences of choices made by our parents – even before we were conceived.
Just as the health of Dr Pottenger’s cats in his 10 year study deteriorated with each generation that ate inappropriate foods, the health of each generation of children is deteriorating.
Consider for a moment the many seemingly unrelated health issues faced by today’s young adults, including infertility.
Tight underwear has been blamed for low sperm counts. Girlfriends and wives insist their partners wear loose boxer shorts instead of tight underwear in the hope of improving their chances of getting pregnant … but they continue to buy dinner at a drive-thru and avoid eating fresh fruit and vegetables – with little or no thought about the effects of nutrition on fertility.
I think of the cats and hope they’re not planning on having grandchildren.
Fluoride is being added to many water supplies in an attempt to improve dental health in children, but little or no effort is made to discourage children from eating sugary snacks and drinking sweet drinks. Introducing fluoride to drinking water seems futile at best – and detrimental at worst – given that most children drink very little water in any given day.
The likely outcome is that children will be bathing and showering in fluoride instead.
Our food choices and lifestyle choices must be having a negative effective on our children, but the issues are rarely raised in any greater depth than television advertisements urging people to eat 2 fruits and 5 vegetables daily.
But jumbling 2 fruits and 5 vegetables into anyone’s stomach along with the plethora of grains, meats, chemicals, sauces, sugars, salts, and snacks they already eat each day – with no thought for the requirements of each type of food when it comes to digestion – is not going to make the kind of difference that the advertisements imply.
As we continue to ignore the real value of eating nutritious foods we continue to play an active part in the downhill trend of new ‘de-generations’ ... and that is nothing short of a tragedy.
Convenience foods are not working for us. But it seems no-one wants the inconvenience of reversing the trends that result in obesity, diabetes, and death.
Food for thought
This document as not been approved by the FDA or any other similar authority. But I’m hoping they’ll all read it.
It does not seek to diagnose or treat any specific medical condition … and it certainly doesn’t attempt to replace the advice of a good medical practitioner. (But I hope they’ll also read it.)
It is presented to you as important ‘food for thought’.
Unless we deliberately reverse the trend of eating junk foods, convenience foods, processed foods with preservatives and additives that seems to lead us further and further into widespread ill-health, and return to the more traditional food choices and food preparation techniques (just as Dr Pottenger did when he eliminated the cooked foods and returned his cats to their ‘natural’ diet of raw foods) I fear we are condemning our children and our children’s children and all future generations to insurmountable health problems.
Protect your children's health. Stop buying junk food.
Dr Stanley who warned that those of us who are over 50 “might be the last generation that can expect to live longer than our parents” is careful about the foods she eats. She swims and walks and her body looks slimmer and fitter than most of the teenagers I pass on the street.
She works tirelessly to improve the health of children – and that includes educating children and their parents about the importance of good diet and exercise. The increase in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes among children and young adults causes her great concern.
It seems that unless quick action is taken to reinstate the type of diet that our generation was raised on, the prognosis is not good.
© 2014 Alex Finn