What is the Impact of a Western Diet?
— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
Western diets are inextricably linked to obesity, which continues to rise and is expected to affect a staggering 50 percent of Americans by 2025.
There’s nothing like mom’s Sunday dinner to fill a heart and belly. But whether it’s a favorite family recipes or pizza delivery when you don’t feel like cooking, chances are we will overindulge. Our western diets are inextricably linked to obesity, which continues to rise and is expected to affect a staggering 50 percent of Americans by 2025. This will increase to 60 percent just five years later.
Western diets, specifically American diets, are high in saturated and trans fats, calories, sodium and sugar. They also are characterized by large portions that create and exacerbate health issues. All of this contributes directly to the steady increase in the obesity level that has risen most notably in the last couple of generations.1
The impact from this type of diet is significant. From a health perspective, it causes multiple chronic conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, cancers and more.2 The financial impact of medical costs associated with obesity is nearly as devastating, topping over $200 billion per year. All of this has a ripple-effect beyond patients as it influences how health systems, communities, workplaces and the greater society function, both to absorb the costs and deal with the other outcomes such as disabilities or decreased productivity at work and home.
Weight Loss and Maintenance are Critical to Minimize Health Risks
Although Americans like to present themselves as health-conscious, the reality is that only about one-quarter of Americans are of healthy weight. This is not surprising since a typical western diet is diametric to a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low or no fat dairy.
Exercise is also a passing effort for many. Eighty percent of people who buy gym memberships to atone for their holiday eating stop going within five months. Those who work out from home fare slightly better, but 40 percent of people surveyed by Consumer Reports said that they used their home exercise equipment far less often than they planned. This strongly supports the need for the greater part of the population to make small to significant lifestyle changes.
For people with obesity, weight loss and maintenance are both challenging and critical to minimize health risks. A program that combines lifestyle changes with support and medical supervision offers promising outcomes because of its comprehensive approach. A Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), such as New Direction Advanced, provides the nutrients that western diets do not, and as part of a weight loss program it can jump start weight loss, and refocus food choices to healthier choices with an emphasis on vegetables and fruits.
Having honest and candid discussions about weight with patients is a necessary first step to identifying options that work for their individual circumstances. For many, high protein diets and meal replacements are a viable and desirable option to reduce obesity and obesity-related diseases.
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.