The Health Risks of the Western Diet
You may have heard the term “western diet,” but you might be unsure of exactly what it means. According to many experts, the classic western diet is characterized by an overconsumption of highly refined and saturated fats, animal proteins, and overly refined sugars, coupled with a reduced intake of plant-based fibers. In other words, the western diet is a diet that is high in fat, sugar, salt, and red meat, and low in fruits and vegetables – and too many calories in general.
Trends in America continually show that, as incomes rise, people tend to eat more. While this phenomenon contradicts the traditional causes of malnutrition, many people in the United States are still malnourished simply because they choose foods that have little to no nutritional value. When combined with a sedentary lifestyle, the western diet can have potentially disastrous consequences on overall health and well-being. For instance, the western diet has been linked to an increased risk of:
- Infection – Highly processed and refined foods, such as fructose and palmitic acid (which are found in many candy bars) can confuse the body’s immune system and sometimes trigger an unnecessary immune response. This can result in a low level of inflammation that “distracts” the immune cells, making them less ready to attack a true infection should one occur.
- Diabetes – Unhealthy saturated and trans fats can increase blood cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are often found in fried foods and packaged baked goods, while saturated fats are present in fatty meats, butter, and full-fat milk and cheese.
- Cancer – The inflammation associated with the western diet can lead to a high rate of cellular turnover and an increased likelihood of cancer-causing gene mutations. That’s because cancer often develops in rapidly dividing cells.
- Obesity – Of course, consuming excess calories can lead to weight gain. But, obesity in turn can increase the risk of many serious health issues, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory joint conditions like arthritis.
Clearly, diet plays a key role in overall health and wellness. Therefore, it is essential for everyone to learn about nutrition and make good food choices.
If you would like some guidance on how to select healthy foods for yourself or your family, the medical professionals at South Tampa Immediate Care are available to help. Just give us a call, or stop by our office at a time that is convenient for you.