Anomaly

The United States of America is by far the richest nation in world history.  Never before have all classes of a society enjoyed such a high standard of living.

One might expect that the richest society in the history of the world would also be the healthiest.  But sadly that is not true.

Unfortunately way too many of us are shortening our lives, ruining our health and burdening the nation with health care costs, simply because of poor food choices.  For the first time in the history of the world just about everyone can have as much fat and sugar as they want.  Historically these things were luxuries, rarely available in abundance except to the very wealthy.  But now in America the biggest health problem among the poor is not hunger, but obesity.

How can a society that is so generally well-educated and intelligent, and with sufficient resources to buy healthy food, be killing itself and especially its children this way?  The evidence is so obvious.  All we have to do is look around.  45 % of Americans have one or more of high blood pressure, high chloresterol or diabetes.  Nearly 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese, as are almost 20% of American children.  Why aren’t we more alarmed?

I suppose there are lots of reasons for this.  We are increasingly idle.  We prefer effortless meals.  We like the taste of sweet and fatty food and we lack the disciple to moderate our consumption of it.  Instead of treating gluttony as a vice and moderation as a virtue, we “supersize” it.  And of course we have a perverse system of governmental subsidies that promote unhealthy food and an increasingly dominant food industry that encourages us to eat unhealthy, and to excess.

But even as the national statistics are worsening, there is a growing movement promoting healthy food choices and rejection of processed industrial food.  Maybe there is hope for a healthy future in America.  Certainly what we’re doing now is just not sustainable.

For any who haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

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