Western Diet Bad for Human Health, Environment

Western Diet Bad for Human Health, Environment | Voice of America – Learning English

A Chinese man takes a photo with Ronald McDonald at a McDonald’s fast food restaurant in China’s northern Liaoning province. (2011 File Photo)

From VOA LearningEnglish, this is the HealthReport.

The spread of Westerneatinghabitsaround the world is bad for humanhealth and for the environment. Those findingscome from a newreport in the journalNature

There are ways to solve this diet-health-environment problem. But they will require a change in eatinghabits. And what we eatcan be a product of culture, personal taste, price and ease.

DavidTilman is a professor of ecology at the University of Minnesota. In the study, he examinedinformation from 100 countries to identifywhatpeopleate and how dietaffectedhealth.

Mr. Tilmannoted a movementbeginning in the 1960s. He found that as nationsindustrialized, populationincreased and earnings rose. Morepeoplebegan to adoptwhat has been called the Westerndiet.

The Westerndiet is high in refined, or processed, sugar, fat, oil and meat. By eatingthesefoods, peoplebegan to getfatter — and sicker.

Too many calories and not enough exercise is not a healthy combination.Too many calories and not enough exercise is not a healthy combination.

“The excess, let us say, in the 15 richestnations of the world, rightnow is on the order of about 400 or 500 extracalories a day that are eatenbeyondwhatpeople need, and that leadspeople to gainweight.”

DavidTillmansaysoverweightpeople are at greater risk for non-infectiousdiseaseslikediabetes, heart disease and somecancers

Diabetes is shooting to veryhighrates in the United States and acrossEurope. Heartdisease is a majorcause of mortality in theWesterncountries. Unfortunatelywhenpeoplebecomeindustrialized, ifthey adopt this Westerndiet, they are going to havethesesamehealthimpacts, and in somecasesifyou are Asian, youhavethemmoreseverelythaneven happens in the West.” 

China, he says, is an examplewhere the number of diabetescases has jumped.

“… from lessthanonepercent to 10 percent of the populationhavingdiabetes as theybegan to industrializeover a 20-yearperiod. And that has not leveled off yet. That is stillgoingup. And that is happeningallacross the world, in Mexico, in Nigeria and so on, justnationafternation.”

A growing generation of Puerto Rican children struggle with weight gain. (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. April 2007)

A growing generation of Puerto Rican children struggle with weight gain. (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. April 2007)

And, a dietbad for humanbeings, it seems, is alsobad for the environment. As the world’s populationgrows, expertssaymoreforests and tropicalareas will becomefarmland for crops or grasslands for grazingcattle. Theseareas will be needed to meet the increasingdemand for food

“We are likely to havemoregreenhousegasreleased in the future from agriculturebecause of this dietaryshiftthanall the greenhousegas that right nowcomes out of all the cars, and all of the airplanes, boats and ships, all forms of transportation. Soourchange in diet is likely to be worse for the world for climatewarmingthanall the transportationsources we useright now.”

Mr. Tilmancalls the linkbetweendiet, the environment and humanhealth, “a trilemma.” This is a play on the worddilemma” — a problemoffering a difficult choice. He saysonepossiblesolution is leaving the Westerndietbehind.

I’m AnnaMatteo.

VOA’s RosanneSkirblereported this story from Washington, D.C. Anna Matteowrote it for VOA LearningEnglish. GeorgeGrow was the editor.


Words in This Story

graze­– v. (of cattle, sheep, etc…) eatgrass in a field

dilemman. a situation in whichyouhave to make a difficultchoice

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