Chapter 7. Health And Healthcare In America

How important is it for us as a nation—and we as individuals—to change our eating habits?

Well, chronic diseases are also among the most prevalent and costly health conditions in the United States. Nearly half (133 million) of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease and, alarmingly, that number is growing. Healthcare spending in the U.S. has reached a total of $4.1 trillion a year, and chronic diseases account for nearly 75 percent of that spending.

Of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, at least six are connected in some way to what we choose to eat. In fact, recent studies have shown that poor diets are responsible for more deaths around the world than any other risk factors, including cigarette smoking, which was previously known to be one of the greatest threats to public health.

As we know, the overconsumption of animal products and processed foods in Western diets is a significant contributor to poor health and increases a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases. Projections from the Eat-Lancet Commission of scientists show that continuing to eat our standard Western diet, coupled with the rapid global population and economic growth, will drive significant health burdens as well as push food systems well beyond environmental limits. Sadly, we are already seeing devastating impacts to both.

The same commission has found that widespread adoption of a plant-based diet could prevent around 11 million deaths each year and allow us to feed a further 10 billion people globally, both healthfully and without damaging the planet.

Our health is closely tied to that of the planet, and what is good for one is also good for the other.

“At this point, any scientist, doctor, journalist, or policy maker who denies or minimizes the importance of a whole food, plant-based diet for individual and societal well-being simply isn’t looking clearly at the facts. There’s just too much good evidence to ignore anymore.”

T. Colin Campbell

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