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5 Effects of the American Diet on Health

Mar 11, 2021

We can all agree that it’s easier to stop by a fast food restaurant or pop open a bag of chips after a busy day at work than cook a healthy meal at home. The convenience factor outweighs all the rest. However, these convenient foods have become the cornerstone of what’s known as the American diet.

The typical Western diet consists of excess sodium, saturated fat, refined grains, and calories from solid fats and added sugars. Most people are aware of the negative effects of this type of diet, like weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease, but you should also consider the lesser-known consequences.

What are the consequences of an American diet?

  1. Weight gain
  2. Impaired cardiac function
  3. Increased risk of diabetes
  4. Deficits in brain function
  5. Worsened asthma symptoms

Let’s take a look at each of these in detail.

1. Diets high in fat and sucrose can lead to weight gain.

Weight gain is a clear effect of a high-fat and high-sucrose diet. According to the CDC, 19% of young people (2 to 19 years old) and 40% of adults in the United States are obese. The increase in weight gain over the last decade has been credited to an increase in caloric intake.

2. A high-sodium diet impairs cardiac function.

Multiple diet-related factors are linked to high blood pressure, one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. Consuming too much sodium is one of those factors; some Americans consume more than double the recommended amount of sodium. It is suggested that you eat foods low in saturated fats and high in fiber, paired with regular physical activity.

3. A Western diet can increase your risk of diabetes.

In a recent study, the Western diet has been shown to increase a person’s resistance to insulin, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. More than 85% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Weight loss can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

4. The gut-brain connection links deficits in brain function to unhealthy diets.

When it comes to diet, there is something called the gut-brain connection. What you put in your body affects more than just the organs involved in the digestive tract. There is a strong relationship between mental health problems and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease is another brain deficit that can be caused by diet-induced obesity. In a recent study, researchers found that those with diet-induced obesity exhibited an accelerated onset of protein clumps in the brain leading to the early onset of Parkinson’s disease.

5. The American diet can worsen your asthma symptoms.

According to the American Lung Association, having the right nutrients in your diet can help you breathe easier. The American diet can worsen the severity of asthma; it doesn’t play a role in causing it. Related dietary factors include consuming vitamin D to boost immune system responses and vitamin E to decrease the risk of asthma symptoms.

Easy Ways To Improve Your Eating Habits

Dr. Hari Susarla, primary care physician at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group in Sugar Land, shares simple ways to improve your diet.

The effects that come with the American diet can be easily corrected with simple lifestyle changes. Regular physical activity and a diet that focuses on consuming whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables are beneficial to leading a healthy life. Visit our Wellness Hub for healthy recipes and resources.

Sources:
CDC | Poor Nutrition
University of Alabama at Birmingham | The Effects of an American Diet on Health
American Lung Association | Asthma and Nutrition: How Food Affects Your Lungs
NCBI | Overview of Health and Diet in America
MHA National | The Gut-Brain Connection