What’s Killing Us? The Truth about the American Diet


Carter Fournier, Staff Writer

If you are like most Americans you have been to a fast food restaurant in the last month maybe even a couple times a week. The average American spends $1200 a year on fast food. Young adults aged 18 to 29 eat fast food most often in the United States. Much of it is convenience. Many of us lack time or energy to make something at home and fast food is an easy alternative; it’s cheap, easy and most of the time we don’t even have to leave our car. There is a downside to all this cheap, easy food. It’s slowly killing us!
According to a 2008 study by the American Medical Journal the obesity rate in America was estimated at 32.2 percent for men and 35.5 percent for women. In 2016 the rate was 35 percent for men and 40.4 percent for women. The rate is increasing! As more Americans become obese the prevalence of heart disease, Diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems and even some cancers also increases. Although fast food is an obvious culprit there are other factors contributing to America’s obesity crisis.
Much of the food we eat at home is bad for our health. One bag of Orville Redenbacher’s buttered microwave popcorn is 474 calories or almost one-quarter of a 2000-calorie diet which is the standard for what most people should have in one day. Calories are not the only health risk with microwave popcorn as the coating on the inside of a popcorn bag has been identified as a likely carcinogen meaning there is a strong chance that it could cause cancer. One large bag of salted potato chips contains over 1,200 calories. And even though the serving size is 160 calories most people don’t count out how many potato chips they eat. Portion sizes also have a lot to do with our obesity problem. In 1970 Americans took in an average of 2,160 calories per person. Today it’s increased to 2,673 calories per person. Beverage cup sizes at fast food restaurants have continued growing. In the 1950s McDonald’s had one cup size which was 7 ounces. The closest drink size today at McDonald’s is a kid’s sized cup which is 12 ounces. A 42 ounce large soft drink from Wendy’s is the equivalent to 3½ cans of soda. When Burger King first opened in the 1950s they had 2 sizes for soft drinks 12 ounces for a small and 16 ounces for a large. Burger king no longer even sells the 12 ounce drinks and have a 16 ounce drink as part of the value meal. Their small drink is now 20 ounces, medium is 30 ounces and there large is 40 ounces. KFC’s small drink is 16 ounces, medium is 20 ounces, large is 30 ounces and they also have a Mega Jug that is 64 ounces! American portion sizes are way bigger than other countries around the world. This is a big reason why other countries do not have as much of a health problem.
Many Americans believe that fat leads to health problems but that simply is not the case.
There is a much bigger link to sugar being the culprit behind America’s obesity crisis. A lot of our foods now contain unhealthy sweeteners like sugar or corn syrup. white bread, Saltine crackers, tomato sauce, Deli meat, tomato soup, milk, and many salad dressings now contain added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. In the 1950s many health studies came out saying that things containing fat are bad for us. Although unsaturated fats or added fats are bad for our health. These studies made many try to eliminate all fat from their diet. The problem with that is that a lot of the flavor in food comes from fat so the food industry started using sugar as a substitute. Sugar is highly addictive and Americans are eating more sugar than ever. We consume an estimated 160 pounds of sugar a year. Humans are biologically programmed to like sugar. Recent health studies suggest sugar many be more addictive than cocaine. Scientists have introduced lab rats to cocaine and then to sugar. They would choose sugar over cocaine every time. Corn Syrup is used a lot as well as it is cheaper in the US than sugar because of taxpayer funded subsidies on corn. Sodas like Coke-Cola now contain Corn syrup in the US. while Coke in other countries like Mexico still have traditional sugar. This is why there is demand in the US for Mexican Coke. Another problem is that Americans are not as active as they used to be. Most teens would rather sit inside and stream movies, play video games, and connect to social media than do something physically active outside.
Many adults get a gym membership after New Year’s, go a couple times then stop going for the rest of the year. A 2016 study by the Mayo Clinic found less than 3 percent of Americans live healthy lifestyles meaning they get an appropriate amount of exercise, eat right and don’t smoke. America is heading down a dark path. As more people are unhealthy the cost for health insurance increases. We may be at a point that we may not live as long as past generations. So eat a carrot for the health of it!!!