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What is the Western diet doing to our bodies?

We’ve adopted a lifestyle that is no good at all. We exercise less and our diet is nothing like that of our ancestors: little fruit, vegetables or local meat and piles of low-fibre, processed foods high in saturated fats. A generation is suffering chronic inflammation and diseases that are likely caused or worsened by the Western diet.

Woman refusing to eat burger

Eating high-carb, processed foods, grains and little or no fruit or vegetables is causing serious damage to our bodies, from nutritional deficiencies to diabetes. Here are five modern ailments thought to be caused or at least exacerbated by modern Western diet.

Heart disease

Heart disease is common in people who live in a Westernised society and is often caused by fat building up in the blood vessels near the heart, brought by the foods that have been consumed over time. The arteries become narrower as this fat builds up and this puts strain on the heart and reduces its ability to pump blood efficiently around the body. A heart attack is caused when the arteries get blocked, and this can be fatal.

Acne

Although considered a minor ailment by many, acne, especially in a severe form, can be debilitating and cause the sufferer much emotional upset. For years the medical profession would not recognise the link between diet and acne, but recent research by Dr. Loren Cordain and several others has found strong links between sugar, insulin resistance and the formation of acne. Their research states that acne forms when unhealthy foods are eaten, such as simple carbohydrates and processed sugars. Cordain states that a diet with a low GI (Glycaemic Index) can cure acne for good.

Diabetes

Eating unhealthily and being overweight are major causes of Type Two diabetes. Eating a huge amount of sugar, which is prevalent in the Western diet, and consuming low-fibre, processed, fatty foods are contributing to a huge rise in Type Two sufferers — and this is a lifelong, chronic condition. However, this type of diabetes can be managed very effectively by controlling your blood sugar levels through diet, which has led scientists to believe that a healthy diet in the first place could prevent it altogether.

Obesity

The Western diet typically contains highly processed meals with low nutritional value such as fast food, ready meals and junk food like sweets, chocolate and crisps. What do all these foods have in common? Lots and lots of calories, which can pile the weight on if eaten regularly. Now add the Western lifestyle — little or no exercise. The World Health Organization predicts there will be 2.3 billion overweight adults in the world by 2015 and more than 700 million of them will be obese. Many will be children and this will result in health problems we already see — such as diabetes, heart disease and general worsening of wear and tear on the body from carrying a heavier load — becoming epidemics. It is well known that obesity can be corrected with a healthy diet but that can be very difficult to implement with junk food everywhere.

Cancer

This is the scariest of them all and shows how powerful the effect of bad eating really is on the body. Scientists at Canada’s British Columbia Cancer Research Centre have recently found that, in mice fed on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, tumour cells grow more slowly than in those fed a typical Western diet high in fat and carbohydrates. This mirrors the belief held for some time now by many medical professionals that an unhealthy, high-carb, processed diet can escalate the growth of tumours and may even cause them. Sugar is also a possible culprit: Many scientists believe cancer cells feed on sugar and that a high-sugar diet can make it much easier for cancer cells to live in your body and multiply.

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