1. Malnutrition Looks Different Today

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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