The Problem Remedies and Prospects of Global Obesity
The global problems of the overweight and obesity are due to the fact that most of us take in more calories than we use, and this is caused by two factors. We live insufficiently physical lives, with energy requirements so low that our appetites cannot adapt properly, and living in today’s cafeteria culture, we eat too many foods with an excessive calorie to micronutrient ratio.
We need to find ways of integrating more physical activity into our lives – whether this means walking part way to work, eschewing lifts and elevators, gardening or taking dance classes. And we need to change our eating habits, switching to foods with a reduced calorific density and a high micronutrient content.
In the near future the food industry will be doing more in this respect, producing ranges of familiar foods with enhanced micronutrient/calorie ratios. Look out for ingredients such as Litesse, HiMaize and Splenda. Many food companies with an interest in quality foods are already looking at these and other functional ingredients.
In the meantime, and for those who prefer to prepare their own meals, there are a number of simple food choices which automatically create dishes with high micronutrient/calorie ratios, fermentable carbohydrates and a low glycaemic load. For those who want to take their nutrition and likely health prospects to the next level, a broad spectrum micro- and phyto-nutrient support program would be a logical addition. Such programs should include not only the currently defined vitamins and minerals but also appropriate levels of flavonoids, isoflavones, lycopene, lutein and glucosamine, at the very least. Other nutrients such as astaxanthin, betaine, Q10, acetylcarnitine, the galactolipids and the conditionally essential sugars and amino sugars are under review, and may well join the must-have’ list as more data accumulates to support their inclusion.
If we can achieve real improvements in the lamentable state of the western world’s nutritional status, significant improvements in public and personal health will inevitably follow. The widespread incidence of Type B malnutrition makes a major contribution to accelerated aging and disease; rectifying Type B with better food choices and properly designed supplements will delay the onset of disease, and lead to improved life expectancy – as any health veteran could tell you.
Life extension will bring massive social and personal changes in its wake. If you know, for example, that you have an excellent chance of extending your healthy and functional middle years into the nineties or beyond, the impact of this knowledge on decisions about career structure, family planning, politics and pension plans will be profound.
Hospital wards and indeed whole hospitals will close – for the right reasons. The delivery point of most healthcare will shift from the surgery and pharmacy to the supermarket checkout.
Tomorrows functional foods will have basic nutrition and health information on the label and more detailed information concealed in bar codes which you will access using hand-held bar-decoders, already in use in many supermarkets. For those with an unhealthy interest in nutrition, yet more information – clinical trials and such-like – will be available on websites that can be perused on the decoders, or on the computer at home.
In the next phase, information about the foods you purchase will be integrated with home-use diagnostic programs, already widely available, and home-use diagnostic kits that measure levels of biomarkers in your blood, sweat, urine and breath. (A bio-marker is a measurable characteristic of a biological system that changes in illness or in the run-up to illness, or upon exposure to physical or chemical damage.) And this in turn will be integrated into your online shopping program, guiding your food choices so that the next time the supermarket delivers, it will be a range of products designed to satisfy your taste-buds and keep you healthy.
This will of course be optional, but as preventive health is so much cheaper than the current model of crisis-management medicine, the government will doubtless provide cash incentives to those who consistently make healthy choices, and keep their biomarkers in the green zone.
Another option will be to make your food/health profile available online to your GP, so that when – if – something starts to go subliminally wrong, the doctor will know about it at an incredibly early stage; early enough to vastly improve the effectiveness of treatment, and the quality of your life.
Hard to believe we could generate such substantial health gains in this way? Look no further than Finland, where dietary shifts over the last two decades have reduced the national blood pressure enough to cut the incidence of heart attacks and strokes in half. And that’s just the beginning.