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Nutrition and Disease, You are what you Eat!

Never has the discussion of nutrition and disease been more relevant, post pandemic, many people are re-thinking how they eat. And what they eat.

The phrase "you are what you eat" is commonly used in conversations about health and the connection between food and the body. Eating an unhealthy diet can have serious consequences and can increase someone's risk of dying from heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

Things like smoking and genetics put us at risk for developing different diseases, but neither are the biggest risk factor.

"Nutrition is now the No. 1 cause of early death, and early disease in our country and the world," says Dr. Kopecky.

Dr. Kopecky says having genes for disease will increase your risk by 30% to 40%, but having a bad lifestyle for disease will increase your risk by 300% to 400%.

"About 57% of the calories we consume every day in this country are ultra processed foods," says Dr. Kopecky.

While ultra processed foods tend to be convenient and cost-effective, they are inflammatory and can cause a host of health issues over time.

"It bothers our tissues. It bothers our heart. It bothers our arteries, our brains, our pancreas, our liver and our lungs. And that leads to disease," says Dr. Kopecky. "It could be in the brain with Alzheimer's, the heart with coronary artery disease, or cancers elsewhere."

The good news is it's never too late to change your eating habits, and no change is too small.

"It's been shown if you take one bite of say a processed meat or ultra processed food, replace that with some unprocessed food or a healthier choice ― you know vegetables and black beans ― after a year or two, that will actually lower your risk of heart attack and stroke."

Of the four levels of food processing, the most processed are termed ultra processed foods. These foods have many added ingredients, such as sugar; salt; fat; and artificial colors, preservatives or stabilizers. The ingredient list sometimes has words that sound like chemicals. Examples are obvious foods like soft drinks, hot dogs, cold cuts, fast food, packaged snacks and cookies, but can also include canned baked beans, low-fat fruit yogurt, packaged bread, ready-made pasta sauces and breakfast cereals.

There is plenty of well-researched evidence showing that regularly eating fast food can harm a person’s health.

Digestive system Many fast food meals are extremely low in fiber. Doctors associate low-fiber diets with a higher riskTrusted Source of digestive conditions such as constipation and diverticular disease, as well as reductions in healthy gut bacteria.

Immunity and inflammation A 2019 review examined the effects of a Western diet on a person’s immune system. This diet consists of high amounts of sugar, salt, and saturated fat from only a few sources. The authors noted that a Western diet could lead to higher inflammation, lower control of infection, higher cancer rates, and a higher risk of allergic and autoinflammatory disease.

Memory and learning A 2020 paperTrusted Source suggests a link between unbalanced diets high in saturated fat and simple carbohydrates, typical of fast food, and a lower capacity for memory and learning. This sort of diet may also raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Allergies In a 2018 reviewTrusted Source, the authors established a link between fast food consumption and an increase in asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema.

Heart disease The FDATrusted Source suggests that a diet high in salt often increases a person’s blood pressure, making a person more prone to heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, or heart disease. The FDA also notes that a diet high in trans fats raises the amountTrusted Source of low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol and lowers the amount of high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol. This means that a person is more likely to develop heart disease.

Obesity The United States Department of Agriculture points out that typical fast food contains a very high number of calories. If a person eats more calories than they burn each day, they gain weight, which may lead to obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, obesity increases a person’s risk of developing a range of serious health conditions.

Education Another consequence of younger people regularly eating fast food is their unintentional lack of understanding of basic meal preparation, cooking, and healthy eating. Over time, this perpetuates dependence on fast food, and people may not learn how to prepare healthy, balanced food in the home. Consuming healthy meals can support a person’s long-term health throughout their lifespan.

Mental health impact

Eating lots of fast food could also impact an individual’s mental health and make them more prone to depression and anxiety.

A 2021 studyTrusted Source compared data from 322 males and 322 females age 30 or older. They found an association between healthy food such as leafy greens, nuts, and fish and positive mood, while the opposite was true of fast food. In addition, women reported significantly more negative associations with fast food than men.

I think you have heard enough, and surely this is a wake up call for us all! I love the last bit on education, it seems many of us have fell peril to this shortcoming. It's time to get cooking healthy folks, one day at a time. Here at Dinner Thyme we have put together a program to help you get started. 21 days to a new and healthier lifestyle! Keep an eye out for the release, and if you join today, you will receive a 50% discount on the program. Give me a shout at

Cheers, and have a healthy, safe and joyful weekend!

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