Of course it makes sense that what you eat affects how you are.
Just as a garden typically thrives when given the right nutrient-rich soil and the right amount of sunlight and water, so your body thrives when it gets the nutrition it needs. Otherwise, the results can be devastating.
Sadly, we see that devastation across the American population – and reflected in headlines like the one that recently cropped up on AlterNet: “Poor Diets Are Killing More Americans Than Anything Else.”
A systematic study by a group of 125 leading researchers who call themselves the U.S. Burden of Disease Collaborators shows that diet is the leading cause of both death and disability in the United States (U.S.). Meanwhile, only 12 percent of visits to doctors’ offices include counseling about diet, according to research by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Even in young populations, nutrition-related health conditions are highly prevalent, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and many cancers are linked to diet and are together called non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are the highest cause of adult mortality in the U.S. and account for 70 percent of premature deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Because NCDs are in large part caused by food or lifestyle choices, the WHO argues that “most premature NCD deaths are preventable.”
Now a new study in the journal Cell suggests one reason why the standard American diet can be so deadly. It actually prompts the human body to respond as though it were under attack.
As ScienceDaily reported last week,
The scientists placed mice for a month on a so-called “Western diet”: high in fat, high in sugar, and low in fiber. The animals consequently developed a strong inflammatory response throughout the body, almost like after infection with dangerous bacteria. “The unhealthy diet led to an unexpected increase in the number of certain immune cells in the blood of the mice, especially granulocytes and monocytes. This was an indication for an involvement of immune cell progenitors in the bone marrow,” Anette Christ, postdoctoral fellow in the Institute of Innate Immunity of the University of Bonn explains.
This isn’t so much news. We’ve known about the diet’s tendency to fuel chronic inflammation for a long time now.
What’s interesting is what happened after the mice were put back on a normal diet. The chronic inflammation subsided, but “the genetic reprogramming of the immune cells and their precursors” persisted.
Even after these four weeks, many of the genes that had been switched on during the fast food phase were still active.
The aggressive immune response stayed aggressive.
Of course, this isn’t to say that this is a forever condition. It may be that the study duration wasn’t long enough to pinpoint a return to norms. Nor did the study consider nutritional, homeopathic, or other protocols that could support the body’s return to normal function.
Indeed, when someone has had less than optimal health, it’s often not enough to just switch over to healthier habits. Extra support is often needed to restore proper balance.
Still, this study offers a powerful reminder of just why healthful eating is so important. Indeed, we’d go a long way toward easing our country’s health burden by valuing this far more than we collectively do.