This article originally appeared in the July 9, 2001 issue of e-News.
Imagine thousands of Americans dying each year from diseases such as pellagra
(niacin deficiency), beriberi (thiamin deficiency), rickets (vitamin D
deficiency) and scurvy (vitamin C deficiency). Those who were alive in the 1930s
lived through it and are familiar with the effects these diseases had on people.
As many as 3,000 deaths were attributed to pellagra and hundreds of children
died from rickets as late as 1938. Over 40% of President Roosevelt's
Administration was deficient in riboflavin (vitamin B2) and over 20% of
pre-school children had rickets. These diseases were common and malnutrition was
typically a result of not enough food.
Today, frank nutrient deficiencies resulting in death are extremely rare in
the United States. Instead, malnutrition comes in the form of "too much" rather
than too little - too much saturated fat, too many hydrogenated fats, too much
sodium, too much refined sugar, too many calories. These food excesses result in
an added burden to the body and do not supply adequate amounts of vitamins and
minerals. Over 90% of U.S. adults are still deficient in at least one vitamin or
mineral. We are an overfed and undernourished nation.
Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer have replaced
frank nutrient deficiencies as leading causes of death in our modern society.
These chronic diseases were rare just a century ago. The nutrient deficiencies
created by our modern diet cause the body to be more prone to viruses, disease,
infections, obesity, allergies, headaches, stress, strokes, fatigue, ulcers,
bowel and colon problems, tumors, cancer, kidney failure, heartburn, a weak
immune system, arthritis, blood pressure problems, heart attacks, and growth and
circulation problems to name a few.
The problems created by poor nutrition are complicated, but the solution is
simple - more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer refined and
processed foods. Yet many Americans have missed this message or simply choose to
ignore it. Whether we choose to believe it or not, our daily food choices do
make a difference in our health and well-being. Countless studies have shown
that those who eat more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and fewer
sugars, saturated fats and processed foods are healthier and less likely to
suffer from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and many other diseases.
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