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Western-Style Diet: A Recipe for Dying Before Your Time

Western-Style Diet: A Recipe for Dying Before Your Time

Red meat, processed foods and dairy products: the risks these foods that are the basis of a Western-style diet can cause to your health are underscored by a new†study in the†American Journal of Medicine. By examining medical data for a number of British adults from 1985-2009, researchers found that, by eating the fried, sugar-loaded, processed diet typical of too many in Western countries, people reduced their likelihood not only of living into old age but of enjoying all of one’s years.

Researchers from France under†Tasnime Akbaraly studied†3,775 men and 1,575 women with a mean age of 51 — at the midpoint of life. All had been part of the†British Whitehall II study that looked specifically at how diet can affect†metabolic syndrome, which is known to be a predictor of heart disease.

Specifically, they assessed the health of participants following the†Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), which was developed by members of the Harvard School of Public Health and others as an alternative to the USDA’s dietary guidelines. The AHEI was created to, indeed, show how “specific dietary patterns and eating behaviors” are “associated with lower chronic disease risk based on previous epidemiological and clinical investigations.” †Under the AHEI guidelines, people are to make certain food choices, such as “white meat over red meat, whole grains over refined grains, oils high in unsaturated fat over ones with saturated fat and multivitamin use” — that is, to forego what has become the typical Western diet for something more healthy.

Akbaraly and the other researchers found that, among the thousands of British adults they studied, those who did not closely stick to the the AHEI’s guidelines raised†their risk of cardiovascular and noncardiovascular death while lowering their chances for “ideal aging” in a state of good health, free of chronic diseases.

My grandmother, who died at the age of 103 in 2008, offers an example of what such a state of “high functionality” in old age looked like. For all but the very end of her life, she walked almost every day to Oakland’s Chinatown to buy groceries and play mahjong. She cooked and sewed and was a central focus of generations of my father’s family. She lived just a few blocks from a McDonalds, but I don’t recall seeing her eat anything from there. While she didn’t eat whole grains, sticking to the white rice that is a staple of Cantonese food, she ate (and had us eat) plenty of green, leafy vegetables.

American fast food — McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks — is something you can find “exported” to seemingly anywhere in the world, from†India to†Russia. Sadly, obesity and related health issues such as heart disease and diabetes, are also increasing in countries like Japan and†India, where people have abandoned a traditional, far healthier diet and become more sedentary in their lifestyle.

Japanese men and women could once be said to “live longer and healthier than everyone else on Earth” thanks to a diet involving a “healthier balance of filling, delicious lower-calorie foods, presented with beautiful portion control in pretty little dishes and plates” — what is pretty much the exact opposite of the salt, sugar and fat-laden paper-wrapped food too many Westerners eat.

Other research has shown how addictive junk food can be. Perhaps the answer to living to a healthy old age lies in developing a preference for a plate of sushi (minus, of course, the potentially mercury-contaminated fish).

 

Related Care2 Coverage

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180 comments

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10:36AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

8:41AM PST on Feb 2, 2014

Maybe it's doing good, though. Dying early means less people using less resources. That is possibly not a positive way to think about it, but it does seem like a reality in a world that is, in my opinion, overpopulated. Bottom line is if you want to live longer, learn the healthiest ways to eat. This article is a good start. If you don't care, then by all means, keep eating whatever corporations call "food." I've said forever that just because a mega-corporation puts something in a colorful box and calls it food doesn't mean that it is. It's up to the individual to sort it out for themselves. Again, articles like this one provide helpful info.

8:25AM PST on Feb 2, 2014

Processed foods are undoubtedly less healthy for us. Thank you for sharing.

9:36PM PDT on May 30, 2013

Interesting char l, the Mediterranean Diet is certainly a fabulous and tasty one.

5:42AM PDT on May 8, 2013

Thank you.

7:29AM PDT on May 5, 2013

Specifically, they assessed the health of participants following the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), which was developed by members of the Harvard School of Public Health and others as an alternative to the USDA’s dietary guidelines. ... Under the AHEI guidelines, people are to make certain food choices, such as **“white meat over red meat, whole grains over refined grains, oils high in unsaturated fat over ones with saturated fat and multivitamin use”** — that is, to forego what has become the typical Western diet for something more healthy.
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In essence, the Mediterranean Diet. Which is generally accepted as one of the very healthiest ways to eat. It is a plant-based diet with moderate servings of animal products - both meat and lower fat dairy. Lots of veggies, beans, whole grains and nuts, and occasional servings of meat and dairy, sugars, etc. And a nice glass of red wine. :o) What could be better?

10:30PM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

"all things in moderation" doesn't make it any less cruel or less violent to the animals who are brutally slaughtered. Even if it is "in moderation" the animals still suffer. Humans do not need to eat animal corpses.

10:14PM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

all things in moderation. you can enjoy that cheeseburger but you also have to eat foods at are good for you. fried foods should be treats not what you live on.

9:57PM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

oh GAG ! just looking at that picture makes me nauseous. Good thing I have a digestive disorder....no way I could eat that without passing out from the pain it would cause me. Bleech, my gag reflex is kicking in.

8:07AM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

Most certainly more people are opening their eyes and hearts and realizing that animals are not "food", they are living, breathing beings with individual personalities, interests, families and a strong will to LIVE. People are also becoming better informed on how meat consumption/ animal agriculture overuses and wastes valuable resources, and pollutes the water, air and soil that we all SHARE. Meat consumption is also harmful to human health, causes unconscionable suffering and brutal death to animals.

These FACTS enrage those who care only about themselves and satiating their tastebuds with the tortured decomposing flesh if beautiful sentient beings. That is why they spend so much time flooding every discussion that speaks of the countless horrors of meat. The good thong is that there are more people every day who are opening their eyes and hearts and they are making more conscious and compassionate choices.

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