Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced revised food guidelines and a revised food pyramid to not much fanfare. Although 80 percent of Americans recognize the food pyramid, only 3 percent to 4 percent actually follow it. Americans choose not to follow the food pyramid, with deadly consequences. The unsavory numbers regarding Americans’ health are staggering and get worse by the year.
More than 400,000 annually die from the unhealthy combination of poor diet and lack of exercise. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 64 percent of Americans older than 20 were overweight or obese, it is frightening how the issue of health is scarcely addressed with serious efforts of change. Indeed, if issues are not addressed soon, the United States will be hit with a tsunami of its own. The health-care system is already feeling the waves of ill health from weight-related diabetes, heart disease and cancers.
The best route to stemming the grease-laden death tides is early and intensive education. Sadly, only the state of Illinois requires physical education until high school graduation. Health education must be a priority. Additionally, an intensive education effort must be coupled with an effort to equalize the prices of healthy foods and unhealthy foods – most easily by means of extra taxes for unhealthy foods. This also serves as a convenient way to fund educational measures. Because overweight-related deaths will soon overpass smoking-related deaths, it only makes sense that consumption should be penalized.
It is doubtful that the government could rival the amount expended on advertising unhealthy foods, and the money should be spent on finding and implementing creative ways to combat unhealthy food choices. Sixty percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Obesity has tripled for adolescents in the last 20 years. The facts and warnings are clear. An epidemic is on the horizon or in its beginning stages, and something must be done more than ho-humming about a new food pyramid.