Is Our Diet Making Us Sick?

Canadian physician Kevin Patterson was recently interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” Patterson described how urbanization (and the influence of western culture) was making people around the world fatter and sicker. Hear the interview and read more here.

This conversation was spurred by Patterson’s essay published November 2010 in Canada’s Maisonneuve journal. In the essay, he describes working as an internist-intensivist at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It’s fascinating stuff. He talked about how different the internal organs of the Afghan soldiers were compared to North Americans and Europeans he has treated.

“Typical Afghan civilians and soldiers would have been 140 pounds or so as adults. And when we operated on them, what we were aware of was the absence of any fat or any adipose tissue underneath the skin,” Patterson says. “Of course, when we operated on Canadians or Americans or Europeans, what was normal was to have most of the organs encased in fat. It had a visceral potency to it when you could see it directly there.”

Basically, the Western diet is slowly killing the world. Yeesh.

Patterson talks quite a bit about the rise of diabetes in the world – how it really didn’t exist just 70 to 80 years ago.

His work with indigenous cultures near the Arctic Circle led him to believe part of the problem – for the indigenous, at least – was that processed food was much cheaper to fly to the Arctic than fresh food. Patterson said there are correlations to be found with inner cities.

The more I read, the more I suspect processed food is the culprit of a lot of ailments. Processed food is almost always going to come off cheaper in the eyes of the consumer than fresh. In my opinion, though, the cost of the processed food is astronomical when you look at the big picture and consider the doctor’s costs and medication costs down the road.

I’ve read Associated Press stories about how obesity is on the rise in Northern Africa, which surprised me, until I read how their diets are changing to closer reflect the Western world’s. In “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Thomas M. Campbell II there are further details about how adopting the Western diet has adversely affected other cultures’ health. This book, incidentally, is definitely a must read if you are serious about changing your diet for the better. It’s an eye-opener.

What are your thoughts on the Western diet? Is it the bad guy for real?

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About kareiner

I'm an active mom who loves to cook. I'm passionate about health and fitness. I'm no expert, nutritionist, personal trainer or miracle worker. I just like being active and I like good food.
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