In American the top killers are chronic disease, including heart disease (heart attack or failure), diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease and cerebrovascular disease (stroke).  Cancer ranks #2 according to JAMA article in 2020.

Obesity kills more than 100,000 Americans each year. Although it is not listed as cause of death, obesity is a significant risk factor for all chronic diseases and is the second leading cause of cancer behind smoking. Belly fat produces a protein called fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2) and has been demonstrated to transform cells into cancer.

Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 30 kg/m2 It is a complex condition involving an excess of body fat which stems from our Western Diet or lack of proper nutrition.

Recently Massachusetts General Hospital noticed that patients that routinely went to the Emergency Department requiring the most medical services were also the patients who seemed to be the most nutritionally vulnerable.

What is the typical Western diet?

 The Western diet is what we Americans intentionally are putting in our mouth every day and it is slowly killing us. Over the last century, the quality of our food and the quantity that we are eating have changed drastically. Food manufacturers strip food of its nutritional value and then add unnatural chemical ingredients, including artificial flavors, colors, additives, preservatives, and texture enhancers as well as refined sugar and salt, hydrogenated oils and trans fats. In a nutshell, this is one trip to McDonalds.

Factory farming produces poor quality meat and dairy products. Livestock are fed grain-based feed, injected with growth hormones, and given antibiotics to help prevent sickness while living in cramped unsanitary conditions.

Our Western diet is high in white flour and white bread.  Did you know white bread is nutritionally DEAD? When whole wheat is refined, it is stripped of 25 naturally occurring nutrients and then ‘enriched’ by adding back only 5 isolated nutrients to increase shelf life.

Food is Health

Think of food as medicine or health. Everything that we eat is GOOD or BAD. Try to eat more “GOOD” every day.

Lower the BAD:

  • Avoid GMO
  • Junk foods which are empty calories
  • Artificial sweeteners. Instead use small amounts of sugar, molasses, honey or agave.
  • Food with long shelf life. Will be full of chemicals and preservatives.

Increase the GOOD:

  • lots of fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains that are minimally processed.
  • All animal products need to be from grass fed meats, eggs and dairy.
  • Choose organic. 

Health is a conscious exercise that needs to be practiced daily.  Expect to go to the grocery more. Fresh foods spoil quicker than highly processed. Read food labels. Avoid ‘added sugar’ and ingredients that can’t be pronounced. Invest in a freezer. Buying in bulk saves time and money. Visit farmers markets, find a local farmer or grow your own

Plan mealtime and make it pleasurable. Have the entire family gather to help with cooking and enjoy the meal together.  You may only be able to have “Family Night’ a few times a week but have to start somewhere.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, true health isn’t about the absence of chronic disease; it’s about feeling good, showing up and giving your highest gifts to the world.

Dr. Julie Wood is a Nurse Practitioner and has been serving the Middle Tennessee area for more than 30 years, specializing in adults with obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Office is located at 401 First Avenue, Mt. Pleasant, TN and statewide with telehealth. Dr. Wood can be reached at 931-325-5560,,  

Articles are meant to be informative and should never replace the advice of your health care provider.