Thursday, October 21, 2010

American Comestibles = Fat America

(Photo 1)
At 21 years of age,
Ieva went from Lithuania to Buffalo, NY on a student work-exchange program. Her job was cleaning the stairwells, windows, and common areas to a 5-story middle-class apartment dwelling. During her 5 months in Buffalo, Ieva had a profound experience with American food. Although she worked daily throughout the week, she gained 5-7 kilograms (10 - 15 pounds). Restaurant and fast food were not part of her daily meals. Her breakfasts were light, mainly cereals, and she ate sandwiches for lunch. During evening meals, Ieva cooked primarily vegetables, pasta, rice, turkey, ham, or chicken. On average, Ieva consumed meat once a day. Her portions and dishes replicated what she typically consumed in Lithuania. The only deviation in her diet was she began eating ice cream near the end of her work-exchange program. Upon returning to Lithuania, she ate her mother’s traditional Lithuanian foods. Although Ieva ate significant proportions and was idle, within one month, she resumed her normal body weight.

(photo 2)

Milda’s story is similar. Her student work-exchange afforded her two jobs and a 16 hour day. At night, she cleaned a hotel and dined on scrabbled eggs, bacon, sausage, and bread for breakfast. Her day job was at behind the counter in a deli department where she had the freedom to eat what she wanted. Her choice of food were salads dressed with mayonnaise, and occasionally fried chicken. She rarely ate out or at home. Within 5 months, Milda gained 10 kilos (22 pounds). Soon after returning to Lithuania, and without any conscious effort, Milda returned to her normal weight. She noted that her husband had spent two work exchange stints in the US and each time came back to Lithuania overweight, to the extent that he was unrecognizable.

(photo 3) Vilma is a third example of this American food-weight phenomenon. She worked in a hotel and a fast-food restaurant in Maine for 4 months, and worked daily from 8 am to 2 am. Her diet was primarily fries, pizza sticks, chicken nuggets and ice cream. Her clothes size went from 0 to size 6 and her weight increase by 8 kilos. This gain was lost after less than a month back on her Lithuanian diet. Vilma commented about her American food experience that, “you can eat and eat and eat and not feel full.” The most noticeable difference was that the American people “ate from the box for their meals.”

The above stories are examples of the horrors of the American diet. It is not an uncommon experience for Lithuanians who have spent significant time in the US. So, why have these people gained so much weight in such a short period of time under ‘slave-like’ working conditions? The reasons are not transparent, or are they? Could there possibly be ingredients and additives within USA foods which cause metabolic interferences? Can growth hormones fed to factory raised animals cause weight gain in humans? What are the effects of salt, sugar, and fat, saturated in our food, have on our body chemistry? What affects do neurochemicals in additives, preservatives, and artificial flavorings have on the human body?

Obviously there is something catastrophically wrong with American comestibles. A recent news report indicated that 75% of Americans are either overweight or obese. The CDC states that the direct medical cost of obesity per year is approximately $147 billion, 50 billion more than spent on cancer. Former FDA Commissioner David Kesslerk‘s book,"The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite" looks at how fat, sugar, and oil is concentrated in America‘s diet and how this has contributed to our national health crisis. Is it possible to overhaul our food system before we collapse under the weight of fat America? Is the current food system ”terrorism“ against our own citizens? What kind of future can a nation have if the majority of its citizens are unhealthy?

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