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Why are we sicker than ever?

A bird’s eye view on health

The hard truth to bear for most of us is that our health has always been in our own hands. The sad reality is that we also never knew it. Why would we when nobody told us, and half of the ads on TV are for prescription drugs to fix whatever ails us? 

So the question begs, why has nobody told us?

First, let me quickly address a common question I get from new clients: “Hey, Matt, hasn’t life expectancy in America gone up?” To which I would say yes, it is true we are living longer, but we’re also sicker for longer than ever before. Or said slightly differently, one could argue we’re dying longer. The real crux of the issue isn’t just how do we live longer, it’s how do we live longer, healthier? Our medical industry is largely funded by its efforts to manage disease, and rarely incentivized to prevent it. Slightly morbid, I know, but money talks, so let’s dig in. 

Over the last hundred years, we as a society have had a continuous increase in chronic disease. In short, we’ve gotten sicker every year. Heart disease, cancer, autoimmunity and a slew of deleterious health conditions have risen sharply. We’ve avoided red meat and saturated fat only to have heart attacks and cancer rates go up. We’ve been told to consume more grains and carbohydrates, only to have 64% of American adults be diabetic or pre-diabetic. Clumsy us, we even stumbled our way into juvenile diabetes. We’ve been told to count calories, eat six small meals a day, have more salads, fruits and veggies, yet obesity in both adults and children is at its peak. It’s important to note here that we listened! Plant food intake has markedly increased over the last 40 years and animal food intake has plummeted more than 30%. It’s no wonder that we as a society are thoroughly confused, and sadly it seems we’ve paid for that confusion by getting sicker than ever. It’s so bad that a recent study out of the University of North Carolina found that only 12% of the adult population is metabolically healthy. Imagine that! 88% of us have metabolic dysfunction, or more simply put, have a broken or damaged engine. Here lies the root cause of most chronic diseases. 

It is here that I ask you to walk down a little brainstorm with me. Imagine if over the last 100 years we had focused our attention on what foods we’d been adding to our diets instead of those we’ve eaten forever? Any anthropologist worth their salt would tell you that we evolved on meat and animal foods. Our access to an abundance of fatty animals is the reason our brains tripled in size over a few million years. It would indeed be a strange feat of evolutionary engineering for our bodies to spend millions of years fine tuning an energy system based on fat and protein that then uses those same foods to kill us. Or just maybe, our passion for technological innovation coupled with our lust to drive profits developed a cornucopia of foods that were never intended to be a part of our energy model. Dr. Ann Childers more cleverly writes that we are Stone Age bodies eating Space Age diets. 

So what have we added in abundance over the last 100 or so years? There is a short list of major players, but it makes up a dangerously large portion of the American diet. Imagine what your daily food intake looks like if you removed all sugar, refined carbohydrates and vegetable oil (any oil extracted from the seed of a plant: soybean, safflower, sunflower, canola, etc)? It might be more challenging than you think, especially given how sneakily cheap vegetable oils find their way into almost everything (cue all dressings, fried foods, snacks, etc.).

Now each of these three food items deserves its own programming and the complexity of their deleterious effects on the human body and metabolic health are worthy of many future discussions. I look forward to having them with you! For today, I ask only that you consider the following musings from a bird’s eye view. For all our medical prowess, why are we sicker than ever? How might corporate interest impact both our food and medical industries? And, lastly, did we blame animal foods for what carbs and seed oils did? 

Wishing you all well!

Matt Helfer is a ketogenic nutrition and functional fitness coach. He believes that poor food choices drive most chronic disease and that most Americans have been sadly mislead when it comes to their nutrition. Matt is also passionate about teaching others how to train functional movement and mobility. He believes that proper movement and nutrition are two major pillars of achieving health span. For more information, email [email protected] and visit @matthewhelfer on Instagram.

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