The number one risk factor of death and disability in the U.S. is the American diet. It makes sense the top killers are tied to poor nutritional habits including heart disease killing more Americans last year than COVID-19 and this is an annual occurrence sadly. I also heard an updated statistic yesterday stating over 73% of Americans are now either overweight or obese with obesity now making up over 40% of that combination. 19% of children are now obese? How does this happen? Is it a knowledge issue? An execution issue? Here I’ll share a few of my thoughts and how to better equip oneself with knowledge to make great health decisions.
I am first to admit I had no clue about the severity of damage the foods I was consuming was having on my body. I didn’t want to know and always thought, “I will get healthy later” or “nothing will happen to me (heart disease warnings…heart attacks happen to other people)” or “I know I’m at a higher risk of prostate cancer because my dad died from it (not true by the way).” I wasn’t informed to make good decisions until but I went through a significant life transformation you can read more about in My Story if you desire.
Why didn’t I know anything about nutrition? It wasn’t taught in school growing up. We ate the Standard American Diet in my house and I continued that into adulthood. My doctor only gave me nutrition advice when I was a mess via a pamphlet when my cholesterol reached 327, I was obese, and had high blood pressure among other health markers that were off. Come to find out later the pamphlet I was handed contained all the foods (meat, dairy, eggs, fish, etc.) causing the issues I was dealing with. I completely lost faith in our sick care system.
I learned over the years that doctors receive very little education about nutrition in medical school and most of that isn’t about preventative aspects? Here are some startling facts from a recent nutrtionfacts.org publication, How Much Do Doctors Actually Know About Nutrition?:
- One study “assessing the clinical nutrition knowledge of medical doctors” found the majority got 70% of the questions wrong
- Less than half could guess how many calories are in fat, carbs and protein
- 10% knew the recommended protein intake
- About 33% knew what a healthy BMI was
- 25% correctly identified the American Heart Association[’s] recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings per day, and fewer still… were aware of the recommended daily added sugar limit[s]
In another publication regarding how much nutrition education is part of medical school, Physicians May Be Missing Their Most Important Tool, it states “30 years ago, only 37% of medical schools had a single course in nutrition. According to the last national survey, that number has since dropped to 27%, and it gets even worse after they graduate.”
How Do We Educate Ourselves?
So if we don’t receive nutrition advice in school or from our doctors, who do we get it from? Here is what I found works for me and I’d love to hear what you do as well.
- Find resources (online or books) that are not tied to an industry/organization pushing agendas…I share my favorites at the end of the blog
- Identify doctors who are educated in nutrition. I realized my doctor was knowledgeable after starting a conversation about it. I consult with him now vs. taking what he told me as the final answer. Tip – research before you go in for your next visit and have a conversation about what you learned and see where it goes…
- Consult with dietitians, nutritionists, or health coaches
- Think about longevity, sustainability, and overall health. Be careful of going on and off diets. We shouldn’t have to diet.
- Question everything you read, identify the source, and educate yourself on counter points to fully understand different perspectives
Take accountability for your health and dedicate time to learn ongoing. Don’t depend on anyone but yourself to take charge. It’s the most important thing you can do for you and your family.
– Add Health to Your Life
Alan’s Favorite Nutrition Resources
- nutritionfacts.org (1st place I think of when I have a question)
- pcrm.org (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine)
- The Exam Room Podcast (PCRM’s regular podcast)
- The Real Truth About Health (YouTube Channel)
- The Healthy Giraffe Get Started (curated content when first starting out)
- Doctors – check out their websites for more information about what they do and where you can get more info!
- Dr. Mike Abenoja (Chiropractor – Dr. Mike works on me regularly keeping me healthy to train, recover quickly, and race fast. We often spend much of our sessions discussing how fueling on a whole-plant food lifestyle optimizes performance and overall health. He knows nutrition…Thank you Dr. Mike! – featured picture…left side)
- Dr. Michael Greger (featured photo…right side…with his How Not to Die book)
- Dr. Neal Barnard
- Dr. Joel Fuhrman
- Dr. Michael Klapper
- Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
- Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. Alan Goldhammer
- Dr. Will Bulsiewicz (Dr. B)
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