I recently watched a documentary on amazon.com/amazonprime called Carb-Loaded, and would encourage anyone who is interested in health & wellness, either for themselves or for their organization, to watch it. It follows a similar theme to other health & wellness documentaries – that what we are eating is hurting us, making us sick, driving obesity, contributing to cognitive declines and creating inflammation that is aging us from the inside. It also reinforces one of the big discrepancies in the diet recommendations we have received since the mid 1950’s, which is: if fat is bad, and we have been working to eliminate fat through a recommended diet high in carbohydrates and low in fats, why have obesity rates, diabetes & heart disease diagnoses risen to dangerous levels and are higher now than ever?
But this documentary hits on two additional points that I think it’s worth covering in more detail:
- Inside Out: Someone may look healthy on the outside (weight in-line, not obese) but be incredibly unhealthy on the inside
- The Cost Burden: Continuing down this path – beyond the emotional cost & loss of living a quality life – will put individuals, businesses and our economy under an unsustainable burden
The main character in the documentary looks reasonably healthy and fit on the outside, but after going to the doctor for a check-up, is shocked to hear he has type-2 diabetes, a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar. In type-2 diabetes patients, either your body has become insulin resistant or it simply does not produce enough insulin to sustain normal blood sugar (blood glucose) levels. Why is insulin resistance bad? When your body becomes insulin resistant, it is no longer able to manage/counter-act high blood glucose levels, which causes your body to undergo severe and damaging changes. Below is a table that outlines the staggering toll insulin resistance can inflict on the human body.
Without making substantial changes in lifestyle, primarily diet, insulin resistance will require medical intervention and will drive much more severe health issues in the near future. As shown below from http://www.deathtodiabetes.com, the insulin resistance cycle will continue to cause fat accumulation, inflammation, high blood pressure, damage to the liver and kidneys, heart disease and cravings that will signal your body to want to eat more of the same! It’s a cycle that has to be broken, then re-set.
The Cost Burden
Our main character is not considered obese but given his diagnosis, understands he is far from healthy on the inside. What is much more common, however, is obesity, a serious problem in the United States. As of 2018, the CDC estimated that the prevalence of obesity was almost 43% of the population, and that approximately 9% of the population was severely obese.
Some facts surrounding diabetes puts the sheer size and scale of this problem into focus:
- 95% of diabetes diagnosis are type 2
- Approximately 9% – 10% of the U.S. population is diabetic, so about 30 million to 35 million people.
- The CDC estimates that another 1/3 of the U.S. population is pre-diabetic, which means without a significant change in their dietary behaviors, another 100+ million people are at risk.
- Currently, the estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes is almost $350 billion/year, which includes both direct medical costs (ie, prescriptions, doctor visits) as well as reduced productivity & absenteeism.
- $1 out of every $4 of U.S. health care costs can be attributed to being spent on care for people with diabetes.
So, if we stay on the same course, and we go from 35 million people with diabetes to 135+ million, that would mean ~ 40% of the U.S. population would be diabetic, with 95% of them type 2. We would also see our diabetes costs at least triple, which would financially crater individuals and business, already under pressure from an absurdly expensive and cumbersome healthcare system. Clearly this is unsustainable and we need to make a major course correction now.
What Do We Do?
The good news is we are in control of this destiny and can reverse this trend through changes in our behavior. The bad news is it will require a significant change in our thinking, actions, legislation and corporate governance to shift the path we have been on since the mid- 1950’s. Here are three steps:
- Change your diet. Remove processed foods, sweets, sugary drinks (soda/soft drinks, juices) and breads and substitute vegetables, nuts & legumes, high quality proteins and natural foods (ie, found in nature). I’m a huge proponent of the ketogenic diet, but in a previous blog I also cover two diets that are definitely worthwhile to explore, the Mediterranean and DASH diets. https://business-fit.org/2020/03/24/2020s-best-diets/
- Change your consumption. Constantly snacking, usually driven by eating highly refined and processed foods, and relying on carry-out and food in a box are sure-fire ways to drive insulin resistance. Instead, vote with your dollars! Focus on buying real food, taking some time to cook/prepare with quality ingredients and seasoning, and eat quality foods that fill you up and prevent you from snacking. Stop the snacking and constant sugar digestion and give your body a chance to reset its insulin usage.
- Charge your elected officials & leaders.
- Our diet pyramid is simply wrong, and it’s time we tasked elected officials to revisit and revise the dietary guidelines we have been taught. Write to your local and national legislative branch representative and demand changes be made to encourage a much healthier consumption that will have a positive impact on us today and our future generations.
- In organizations, leaders need to foster an environment of health & wellness. Bring in guest speakers such as registered nutritionists, offer nutritious snacks in the break rooms and during conferences, encourage activity breaks and staff to attend wellness seminars, and offer incentives that can help reduce health insurance costs for the individual and company. Most importantly, understand “food as fuel” can contribute to a healthier organization and culture, which can have tangible business results.