Guest post by Sara Mackey
The following post is by freelance writer Sara Mackey. Her article is especially poignant at this time, when just April 1st, the program “60 Minutes” focused on new studies showing how toxic sugar is for the body.
Healthy, organic food choices and lower health care costs are not necessarily a foregone conclusion. It’s perfectly possible to buy organic and still be overweight and in poor health, but there is a law of science that says the simple act of observing an object changes that object. When most people really start to observe their diets and to realize what they’re eating, they change.
There is a national epidemic of obesity in America. Three out of 5 people in this nation are overweight. Insurers are in the business of assessing risk. Join those pieces and you assemble a simple equation. In our society at this moment in time, people who are thinner can find affordable individual health insurance online more easily.
Consider the Case of Added Sugars
Many people who are overweight will protest that they don’t eat a lot of sweets. It’s actually almost impossible in our society not to eat added sugars. They’re in virtually every processed food stuff sold on every grocery store shelf in the country. While it is true that since the 1970s the consumption of actual sugar has gone down 40 percent, high fructose corn syrup has taken up the slack. Both contain fructose, which neuroscience has proven is one of the most addictive substances on the planet, hitting the reward centers of the brain with a level of impact not unlike drugs such as cocaine.
On average, every person in the United States consumes 130 lbs. of sugar a year, or about a third of a pound per day. Studies have linked this high sugar consumption not just to the development of Type II diabetes, but also to hypertension and heart disease. Perhaps most frighteningly, researchers have found that about a third of all common cancers contain glucose receptors. The tumors literally feed and grow on sugar.
But even apart from the cutting edge research, the simple fact is that we, too, feed and grow on sugar. Because it is an addictive substance, over time, we become habituated to its effect, so we need more to get the same “hit,” which means over-eating. Currently, there is no greater epidemic in America than obesity, which is tied directly to the nature of the human diet.
Obesity Drives Up the Cost of Health Care
For decades now, smoking has been considered the single most negative personal habit you can adopt to knowingly ruin your health. On average, smokers run up medical bills each year that are $1300 higher than those of non-smokers. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, however, have determined that people who are obese spend $1,750 more a year on their health care. The morbidly obese spend an additional $5,500.
Because Americans eat a diet heavily laced with processed foods that are full of chemicals, we pack on the pounds faster than the inhabitants of any nation in the world. Obesity puts the human body at risk for a wide range of life-threatening illnesses from high blood pressure to diabetes and even weight-related joint failure. Though it may sound overly simplistic, changing your diet literally changes your life. Vegetarians, for instance, have a 3-20 percent lower body weight than meat eaters, and adopting a low-fat vegan diet reliably results in about 1 pound per week in weight loss.
Let’s face it. Not everyone can go vegetarian, and becoming a vegan is an even more stringent lifestyle. We can, however, start reading labels, educating ourselves about food additives, and buying natural, organic food. These simple choices, paired with even moderate exercise, can have an amazing effect on a person’s weight and overall health, which does translate to lower health care costs and lower health insurance premiums.