Starving on Junk Food
Believe it or not, hospitals in wealthy industrialized nations such as Great Britain have reported a rise in malnutrition by up to 44% in the past 5 years.(1) Even more shocking is the fact that the malnourished individuals are eating a steady diet of fast foods and snacks that are totally devoid of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Ironically, as malnutrition rises in developed nations so does the rate of obesity in both children and adults. According to the American Obesity Association, “30.3% of children (ages 6 to 11) are overweight and 15.3% are obese. For adolescents (ages 12 to 19), 30.4% are overweight and 15.5% are obese.” These statistics show that the rate of obesity in children has quadrupled in the past 25 years.(2)
In children, nutritional deficiencies coupled with obesity can be a potentially serious combination. In the past 2 decades there has been an alarming rise in learning and behavioral disorders along with a dramatic increase in childhood hypertension and diabetes. Medical professionals believe that many of the cases are directly related to a “junk food” diet and lack of exercise.
For adults, the statistics are even more grim. In the US, 64.5% of adults aged 20 years and older are overweight, 30.5% are obese, and 4.7% are severely obese, making them significantly at risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and even certain forms of cancer. Perhaps not surprisingly, at least half the US population (including children) is also deficient in at least one essential nutrient.
While folic acid, B12, B6, iron, zinc, and calcium are most commonly deficient in the typical Western diet, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytonutrients may also be lacking. Most physicians now recommend taking a daily multivitamin to ensure adequate nutrient intake and lower the risk of infections and degenerative disease.
1. Wooding D and Wells T The Sun Online, May 7, 2007.