The long-term effects of unhealthy eating now rank higher than smoking as a direct cause of poor overall health as we age. Poor nutrient intake results in a higher risk of developing multiple preventable chronic diseases, and unfortunately, premature death. An unhealthy diet largely consists of oversized portions, processed foods, sugary beverages and more calories than are needed to maintain a healthy weight, and lacks sufficient intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, fiber, and the critical nutrients needed for proper bodily function. When we regularly consume foods s that are full of added sugars, unhealthy fats and excess sodium, such as double cheeseburgers, extra-large fries and supersized soft drinks, are many of us thinking about what happens when the meal is over? Of course, some certainly are.
However, the majority may never give any thought to the added burden placed on the body to digest and process non-nutritive foods nor the increased risk of a shortened and poor quality lifespan that an unhealthy lifestyle can bring.
Not a pleasant thought, but the reality is that without good nutrition, good health is not possible. According to the Center For Science In The Public Interest, an unhealthy diet combined with a sedentary lifestyle is the leading cause of disability and the loss of independence. Statistics show that only a small percentage of the general population follows a diet consistent with nutrient guidelines recommended by the USDA. Occasionally indulging in low-nutrient foods as a special treat may not be problematic. However, the evidence is clear that eating poorly most of the time can have deleterious health consequences that many may not associate with their diet.
In the short term, unhealthy eating habits may negatively affect:
- Energy production, resulting in fatigue or sluggishness
- Brain function, resulting in lowered cognitive abilities, poor memory and reduced concentration
- Exercise capabilities, muscle strength and endurance, resulting in physical weakness and poor coordination
- Digestion, resulting in heartburn, indigestion, bloating, and acid reflux
- Neurotransmitter production, resulting in lowered mood and difficulty controlling emotions
- Blood sugar and insulin levels, resulting in unstable blood glucose levels, insulin resistance and weight gain
- Stress levels, resulting in food cravings, overeating, weight gain and poor sleep
Per the World Health Organization, over time a nutrient deficient diet and lack of physical activity contributes to major nutrition-related chronic diseases:
- Cardiovascular disease – Cardiovascular disease is to a large extent attributed tounbalanced diets and physical inactivity.
- Type 2 diabetes, eye and kidney diseases – Obesity and inactivity largely account for the escalating rates of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can lead to increased risk of stroke, as well heart, kidney and eye disease.
- High blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol levels – These are all factors in the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome and increased risk of developing chronic diseases.
- Osteoporosis – Adequate vitamin C and calcium, along with sensible sun exposure and physical activity is necessary to strengthen bones and muscles.
- Obesity – The imbalance between low energy expenditure and high caloric intake are the main determinates in the obesity epidemic.
- Osteoarthritis – The most important relationship between diet and arthritis is a healthy weight. A whole food nutritious diet has anti-inflammatory effects to help ease arthritis symptoms. Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise will assist weight loss, and take pressure off joints for pain reduction.
- Cancers – Although tobacco use is still the number one cause of cancer, dietary factors contribute significantly. Maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, and ensuring adequate whole food intake can reduce cancer risks.
Remember for many people chronic disease is not inevitable. The quality of food consumed in relation to physical activity are the key determinates of nutrition related chronic diseases. Making better food choices puts you in control of your health and quality of life. Physical activity to balance energy intake plays an equally essential role in determining health and longevity and is key to maintaining proper weight for optimal health. When you make healthy nutrition and physical activity a priority, weight loss and improved metabolic health should naturally follow. To foster strength, energy and health, eat nutritious foods and find time to be active every day.
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Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/summary/en/
Why Good Nutrition is Important. https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/why-good-nutrition-important
Disease Prevention. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/disease-prevention/
Short Term Effects of Bad Eating Habits. http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/how-stress-can-make-us-overeat
How stress can make us overeat. http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/how-stress-can-make-us-overeat
Long Term Effects of Bad Eating Habits. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/longterm-effects-bad-eating-habits-10555.html
The Importance of Good Nutrition. http://www.tuftsmedicarepreferred.org/healthy-living/expert-knowledge/importance-good-nutrition