The diet many Americans consume – full of convenient, fast, ultra-processed foods – is also responsible for many long-term health consequences. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is to blame for most of chronic metabolic disease (CMD), which is one of the greatest global health threats of the 21st century.
Obesity, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia (high triglycerides and low HDL), fatty liver disease, coronary artery disease, stroke, dementia and cancer are all health-threatening conditions that can be caused by poor diets, with rates that keep increasing year after year.
It might be surprising, but 90% of CMD is attributable to personal lifestyle choices, while genetics and inheritance cause only about 10% of CMD. This is great news and means we can control the diseases more than most of us realize. While lack of exercise, smoking, poor sleep and stress all contribute to CMD, poor nutrition undeniably bears most of the burden of the increasing rates of these diseases.
So, which diet should one choose to maintain a healthy weight and improve metabolic health?
The public is bombarded with endless advertisements about which diet is best for them or their illnesses. From TV and radio to newspapers and magazines, and more recently social media such as Facebook and Instagram, the average person is hounded by ads for different diets that usually promise weight loss.
The list is long, and some of the more popular options include Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, low carb, keto, paleo, south beach, Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diets. Some of the diets can be expensive, and many are hard for people to stick with over time.
There are so many to choose from, and it is so confusing. How does one decide which diet is best for them? Which way of eating will one be able to successfully continue over time?
There are many “diets” as noted above, but instead of thinking of a short-term or temporary “diet,” it is important to instead be working toward a long-term lifestyle change and healthier way of eating. The different diets can all lead to weight loss and might also lead to improvements in metabolic health, but there is not a one-size-fits-all “diet.” There can be different factors affecting people, which might make one diet more appropriate for them than another. Personal, cultural and religious preferences might also affect someone’s dietary choices.
Working with an appropriately-trained healthcare provider who can tailor dietary, lifestyle and behavioral recommendations to the individual can be very helpful. Underlying health conditions need to be followed appropriately throughout the process of making dietary and lifestyle changes and sustaining a healthy weight. A healthcare professional should be involved in any major eating plan changes, especially if you take certain medications.
Obesity medicine practitioners have advanced education to provide comprehensive care for patients to help them sustain a healthy weight. Obesity medicine combines science-based medicine with individualized obesity treatment, using therapeutic interventions including diet, physical activity, behavior change and medications, to work toward improved health for patients.
You can take back your health!