A global case to be more healthy

By David Blake

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Globally, America is characterized as a country of abundance. Unfortunately with abundance comes indulgence. In wake of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and Barack Obama’s health care reforms pushing for more preventative health measures, an emphasis on the food that goes into our body is making its way into society. I personally believe from the information that I’m about to present to you there is a good case to be made about cutting back. My view isn’t solely based on a health perspective, but on an economic and environmental one as well.

Many of us have probably heard the old adage “you are what you eat.” This saying isn’t entirely wrong. The proteins you get from your cheeseburger or chicken fingers get broken down and reassembled into proteins your body can use to build and communicate. The same can be said for the fats that we get as well. Fats are incorporated into specific cells to insulate our bodies and even help form cell membranes. Obviously this is simplified but you can see what I mean. Now, food isn’t bad on its own, but when you overindulge, it can be. In America this seems to be the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 36 percent of our adult population, people more than 20 years old, is obese. For children and adolescents, six to 19 years old, the obesity rate is right around 18 percent. Along with over indulgence, poor nutrition is also a big problem.

Four of the top 10 most expensive medical costs and conditions can be directly related to poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Heart conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol cost a combined total of $238.6 billion a year. Obesity itself comes with some of its own staggering numbers as well. It’s estimated that obesity costs American businesses $164 billion dollars in lost worker productivity. This affects all of us.

The higher health care costs are the higher health insurance premiums become. The reverse could also be said. If we were to exercise more and eat healthier we could potentially lower the amount spent on the above four conditions. Economically you could also argue that lowering the obesity rate would increase worker productivity, increasing profits for companies. In general here we would be seeing an increase in money for the masses. Individuals would save in health insurance premiums and companies would make more from a more productive workforce. I admit I am by no means an expert on economics but being a consumer economy an increase in money could lead to more buying and thus a better economy. Perhaps with companies saving money they would even have enough funds to hire more people and this in return could lower unemployment.

Our poor diets also have an environmental impact. In a world with a growing population and shrinking natural resources we can’t afford to be wasting valuable assets. Yet many Americans do just that every day. It’s estimated that we throw away 90 billion pounds of food a year. This is a huge waste of land space, water and electricity. In addition to wastefulness all this food presents a problem after it’s thrown away. When all this food begins to decompose it releases methane, a gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its contributions towards global warming.

When you think about it you have to burn fossil fuels to ship the food, the electricity used to make the food might come from fossil fuel sources and the food release greenhouse gases as it decomposes. As a fun fact, in addition to this it’s also estimated that in America obesity contributes to an extra $3.4 billion dollars being spent on fuel cost to transport people of a heavier set.

If we were to cut out all this wasted food and trim down you could potentially be looking a decent impact on our carbon footprint. At the very least it’d be a step in the right direction.

What makes matters worse about wasting all this food is the fact that one in six Americans go hungry a day. To me this is just simply unacceptable. Going back to economics: if we weren’t wasting so much then food prices could potentially become a little bit cheaper; supply and demand.  This may put them in the realm of affordability for some of these hungry Americans. For the Americans who aren’t going hungry, though reducing how much they buy in groceries pays of for them as well. About 21 percent of the food Americans buys ends up in the trash, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s 21 percent of all the money you spend on food you could be saving.

I’m not necessarily saying that diet and exercise alone will solve all of the world’s woes. However there is a case to be made that it could make the world a little bit of a better place. It wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.

David Blake is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]