As of 2012, “U.S health care costs now eat up 17.6 percent of GDP”1. Why do these costs comprise such an astronomical number? On the surface, our epidemics of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity seem to be mainly the products of overeating, fast food and junk food. While this is true, there is a diet that would do even more good than simply reducing food portions and eliminating fast food and junk food. Unrefined plant foods are excellent for the health and a whole foods plant based diet can even reverse diabetes and heart disease 2. However, the US government indirectly subsidizes meat, dairy and processed foods. Consequently, those who are poor, uninclined or unknowledgeable about how to eat an economical, healthy diet have a tendency to eat fast food and junk food instead of whole, unprocessed foods.
Diabetes is ravaging America. It is the seventh leading cause of death in this country 3. Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes. Fast food, junk food, meat, dairy and heavily processed foods all tend to promote weight gain 4. Unfortunately, these are the very foods that many Americans consume on a regular basis.
Another disease for which the above mentioned diet is a clear risk factor is heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women”. Some of the risk factors for this disease are “diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity”5. Indeed, heart disease and the issues that cause it are very visible problems in America. In light of this state of ill health, partly caused by poor diet, the question should be asked; “Why is unhealthy food so inexpensive and popular in America?” The unfortunate answer to this question is that these foods are made with subsidized ingredients. For example, the United States heavily subsidizes corn and soy crops which food companies process into junk food ingredients 6. The majority of this corn and soy is Genetically Modified to start with and is not entirely natural. In contrast, apples are the only fruit or vegetable that are significantly subsidized in America 6.
A low fat whole foods plant based diet has been to produce wonders in improving and maintaining people’s health. Besides good health, another bonus to this diet is that it can be more cost effective than a meat based diet. “Dr. John McDougall has shown that you can eat a starch rich, plant based, whole foods diet for about 3 dollars a day ” 7. What’s more, the average hospital stay costs $4,293. This is significantly more money than what a person on a whole foods plant based diet would spend on “extras” in one year! 7.
With the dramatic health and economic benefits a whole food plant based diet already provides, it is a pity that few Americans are knowledgeable and/or willing to follow it. If the United States would subsidize more whole plant foods, more people would likely eat healthier diets. With better health, there would be fewer medical expenses, and America would be have not only better health, but less of a health care cost crises.
- Health Costs: How the US Compares with Other Countries.( Kane, Jason) Accessed on 30 March 2017 at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/health-costs-how-the-us-compares-with-other-countries/
2. Healthy Living ( Kaiser Permanente)Accessed on 25 April 2017 at https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/The-Plant-Based-Diet-booklet.pdf
3. Statistics About Diabetes (American Diabetes Association). Accessed on 5 April 2017 at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics
4. Food and Diet :Beyond Willpower: Diet Quality and Quantity Matter (Harvard: T.C Chan School of Public Health) Accessed on 25 April 2017 at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/diet-and-weight/
Sorry Dr Atkins, eating LESS meat is the way to lose weight, results of five-year study show (Bentley, Paul) Accessed on 25 April 2017 at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1296727/Sorry-Dr-Atkins-eating-LESS-meat-way-lose-weight-results-year-study-show.html
5. Heart Disease (Healthline) Accessed on 5 April 2017 at http://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease-infographic
6. U.S. Junk Food Subsidies Since 1995 Equal To Cost Of Nearly 52 Billion Twinkies: Study ( Fairchild, Caroline) Accessed on 4 April 2017 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/16/government-subsidies-junk-food_n_3600046.html
How Billions In Tax Dollars Subsidize The Junk Food Industry (Pianin, Eric) Accessed on 14 April 2017 at http://www.businessinsider.com/billions-in-tax-dollars-subsidize-the-junk-food-industry-2012-7
7. Top 7 Genetically Modified Crops (Margie, Kelly) Accessed on 14 April 2017 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margie-kelly/genetically-modified-food_b_2039455.html
8..Cheap or Expensive? The REAL Truth About Plant-Based Diets (Oliviera, Rozanne) Accessed on 28 March 2017 at http://ucdintegrativemedicine.com/2015/03/cheap-or-expensive-the-real-truth-about-plant-based-diets/#gs.08b_oXE
9.. Success Stories Accessed on 7 April 2017 at http://www.dresselstyn.com/site/success-stories/
Figure of whole foods https://lifetidesblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/xlviii-why-i-stopped-eating-animals/