HEALING AMERICA’S POPULATION THROUGH KNOWLEDGE OF DISEASE AND NUTRITION: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH
Though the United States is one of the most powerful nations on earth, as far as developing new fields of science and technology, the one area in which America does not dominate nor excel is health. Specifically, America is dying from illness that is related to a diet poor in nutrition. This issue is due in part to society’s ignorance which stems from a lack of unified and reliable scientific information. The different disciplines that study these nutrition related diseases all have a different perspective on how to fix this endemic. This conflict of view causes the people to be mislead on how they should indeed live their dietary lives. If the people of America are to follow the nutritional trends they have set, the future will be doomed by disease and chronic illness. The American people have not been given the appropriate knowledge about the causes of disease and nutritional ways to prevent them. The human body is a miraculous system that once understood, can be the vehicle to gain a better quality of life for the individual and for the nation as a whole.
Almost a third of young children are obese and many more over weight (Oz, 2003). The number one killer in this country is heart disease and as we will see later heart disease and other chronic illnesses stem from poor nutrition. The majority of adults are overweight and undernourished. Though this country has the resources to provide high quality, nutrition-rich foods, Americans are drawn to unhealthy, refined and processed foods. Across the whole country there is no major difference in the people’s level of health between cities or states. In other , the level of health in America is
distributed evenly from city to city. This goes to show that no matter what background or financial class, the American people are eating the same foods that are causing such
drastic effects on their health. This poor nutrition can also cause less productivity at work or school, and hyperactivity and mood swings among children and youth. Poor nutrition can in time push the typical American adult to depression, diabetes and hypertension and increase the risks of death in all ages and ethnic groups whether man or woman (Oz, 2003). “ The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that 300,000 deaths annually are caused by or related to obesity. The incidence of diabetes alone has risen by a third since 1990, and treatment costs one hundred billion a year” (Oz, 2003, 2). This problem affects everyone because of the drastic social and economic tolls it takes on the American people. With a strong dedication towards a movement involving the abolishment of nutritional ignorance through health and science education, the American people can be freed from the war on nutrition-related illness and stop the high number of casualties.
According to Allen Repko (2005), there is a definite need for an interdisciplinary approach to this issue because of its inability to be comprehensively resolved through the use of only one discipline, its complexity, and the large amount of relevance it displays throughout every home in America.
There are many disciplines needed in order to show the necessity for good nutrition and the significance of educating the American people about healthy living.
The disciplines most pertinent to this issue are Biology, Chemistry, and Human Nutrition. Biology is needed because of its perspective on the causes of disease, how
they function, and how they affect the body. There are many sub-disciplines within the field of Biology that will be needed to help the reader understand the drastic affects of chronic illness. These sub-groups include Pathology and Physiology. Chemistry is a very useful discipline because it will show the reader the different chemical properties of the elements contributing to good and bad nutrition. Also, upon explaining disease, there is a necessity to understand the natural chemicals the human body uses to perform its functions, and the toxic chemicals synthesized to treat illness. The last discipline, Health Education, is very important in understanding the problem because of its view on illness and its approach to healing America through preventative practices.
There will be diligent studies of literature done on the mechanisms dealing with chronic illness and metabolism. Most research done in the fields of Biology, Chemistry and Human Nutrition will come from methods such as laboratory experiments, data collection, surveys, and personal interviews. There will also be reports on statistical analysis to help strengthen main ideas.
The purpose of this paper is to show the reader how dangerous and destructive the American diet is and how there could be a possibility of changing it. This involves finding the source for misleading the American people. The disciplines will delve into the science of diseases and how they take over the body and introduce all the vital chemicals that the body needs for normal function. Also, the perspectives of how to cure the illness and the actual measures that have been taken will be discussed. Once the perspectives of all the disciplines have been understood, the conflict can be found.
Upon realizing the conflict, there can then be an attempt to find areas of common ground and integrate them into a unified and plausible solution.
Before explaining the insights of each discipline on the problem at hand, it is important to understand the severity of the nation’s health risks and the characteristics of the diet that has brought them to this point. The current state of America’s health is not due to a spontaneous sequence of events. In other , due mainly to societal changes in dietary behavior, there has been an influx of weight related illnesses in the U.S. The American diet however, has not always been so detrimental to health. There have been many societal changes that have led to the demand for this diet. Just in the past fifty years the average American family has changed its lifestyle from gathering around the table for home cooked meals to a high-paced lifestyle of grab-and-go eating (personal communication, February 24, 2008). This change in lifestyle, along with others, has contributed to the majority of food industries responding to the new demands by increasing the production of processed, preserved and refined foods. In 1978, only 18 percent of the calories consumed in the average American diet took place away from home and now the amount has reached 36 percent (Oz, 2003). In 2000, Americans ate 110 billion dollars in fast food meals as opposed to the 6 billion dollars worth eaten in 1970 (Robbins, 2003). Not only have people become accustomed to
eating this high-calorie and nutrient-deficient food, but many of the store bought foods have also become overly processed and refined to the point of nutrient depletion. Natural sugar for example, is being consumed less due to the increase in High Fructose Corn Syrup production (Forristal, 2001). Sugar used to be extracted naturally from sugar cane but is now replaced by a different type that comes from corn. There is no need to go into each individual food for the majority of foods eaten by the average American have the same nutritional properties. The affects of eating these foods will be discussed in detail later. Forty percent of the calorie intake in the American diet comes from refined sugars and refined grains which have been proven to contribute to poor health (Fuhrman, 2005). These refined substances include high fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose (milk), and fruit juice concentrates. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration makes a relatively close estimate that the average American consumes an unbelievable 32 teaspoons of added sugar a day (Kantor, 1999). Another major factor contributing to the high prevalence of weight related disease is the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle (Berenson, Srinivasan, Nicklas, 1998). The adoption of a sedentary lifestyle has affected almost everyone in the United States (Fuhrman, 2003). This can be attributed to an increase in entertainment that forces the individual to be less physically active (Oz, 2003). These forms of entertainment include video and computer games, movies, television and internet surfing. The internet has provided a whole new way to have access to the world without leaving the comfort of the individuals couch
(Fuhrman, 2003). For example, people no longer have to leave their house to do their shopping. Though the main issue is about disease, it is also important to note the other affects of the American diet. Poor nutrition has resulted in less productivity at school or work, increased feelings of anxiety, stress and insecurity, and many more issues concerning quality-of-life. These concerns, though important, are miniscule compared to the paramount dilemma of obesity and its related diseases. Thirty four percent of all Americans are obese and many more over weight (Fuhrman, 2003). Twenty five percent of schoolchildren today are obese (Gauthier, Hicker, Noel, 2000). Obesity not only has been proven to cause many illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and depression, but also to increase death rates in all ages and in almost every gender and ethnic group (Alterwein, 2003). The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that 300,000 deaths per year are caused by or associated with obesity (Bouchard, 1996). The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen by a third since 1990, and the cost for treatment has exceeded 100 billion dollars a year (Oz, 2003). Though there are many more statistics regarding the state of America’s health, enough has already been stated to validate the point that the people of America are in dire need for help.
For the purposes of this paper, there are a few topics and related issues that will be excluded in order to narrow down the focus to the particular issues regarding the main problem. People excluded from the focus are the Americans who have adopted a
vegan or vegetarian diet, athletes and other individuals who have been educated in fields of nutrition that take action towards a healthier lifestyle. Genetic factors will not be discussed due to the relatively little amount of information able to prove dietary and nutritional setbacks. Economic and cost related information will not be discussed for the topic at hand is about finding a solution to illness under any means necessary; even if that involves the high cost of healthier foods. When discussing illnesses, only the main weight related diseases will be discussed. These include Type II diabetes, heart attack, hypertension, and colon cancer. The main ideas to be included are directly related to diet and weight. These parameters have been set strictly due to the fact that what Americans are putting into their bodies has a direct correlation with what is causing these catastrophic illnesses.
Now that the truths about our overweight society have been identified, there can be a dissection of the problem by the most relevant disciplines. In order for the reader to understand the issue thoroughly, it is important that the disciplines are introduced in an appropriate sequence. Biology will be the first discipline whose insights will be discussed. It is important to discuss these insights first because they introduce the reader to the main weight related illnesses America faces, and shows how they are caused. Before one can show the treatments and the mechanisms involved on a molecular level, one must understand what is happening on the larger cellular level. Therefore, after illness and its consequences have been discussed from a Biological standpoint, Chemistry’s perspectives will be discussed to show an alternative view. Human Nutrition comes last because its perspective deals mainly with finding certain
foods that contain certain helpful or harmful chemicals or elements that will be understood best after reading the Chemistry section. In other , before finding out what foods are high in fiber or low in cholesterol, it is important to see first what those compounds are and how they affect the body.
The main goal of the paper is to discuss illness, perspectives on treatment and insights on dietary nutrition in order to provide a solution to the problem of a malnourished and nutritionally uneducated society that is looking for answers which, until now, have not been effectively provided. This lack of answers is due to these disciplines becoming too focused and too specialized in their particular field. When this narrowed view is encompassed by such a wide array of disciplines, it is almost impossible and definitely improbable that a practical and generic solution can be created to ensure a healing process for a physically unhealthy society. In other , this paper will use an interdisciplinary approach in order to educate the reader on the contrasting insights of the disciplines, and to integrate these insights into a practical, comprehensive, and unified solution (Repko, 2005).
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Repko, A. (2005). Interdisciplinary practice: A student guide to research and writing. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing.
Fuhrman, J. (2003). Eat to Live. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Robbins, J. (2003). [Introduction]. In Eat to Live. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Forristal, L. (Fall 2001). The Murky World of High-Fructose Corn Syrup. The Weston A. Price Foundation. Retrieved February 14, 2008, from http://www.westonaprice.org/motherlinda/cornsyrup.html.
Alterwein, R. (2003). [Introduction]. In Eat to Live. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
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