How the Standard American Diet May Be Affecting Your Child’s Health
It amazes me that so many Americans are over fat and sick yet fail to realize that the food they eat is directly responsible for how bad they feel! As a Nutritionist, I’ve worked with people for the past 30 years and I’ve seen the issue of obesity and illness grow to astronomical proportions. I fear for the future of our children and I wonder if people ever stop to think how their own dietary habits are actually poisoning their children. If adults fail to change their own habits than it’s time to face the truth – you are slowly killing your children since you teach your children by example and they eat the foods you provide.
The standard American diet (SAD) is not what most people in my generation grew up eating. My mom cooked meals from real foods and eating out in a restaurant was a rare, special occasion. Processed, quick foods weren’t even available in the marketplace like we find them today. In addition, our food supply today has been polluted by chemicals, Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) and man made ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and trans fats to name a few. Our children have been raised on these “fake” processed foods that are silently affecting their longevity.
To continue with this discussion and truly understand the impact of diet you must first understand the function of the liver. Everything in life happens for a reason and recently the health of the liver has been brought to my attention over and over again so much so that I am compelled to write about the state of this organ in our current population. The liver is the central organ in our body that is responsible for detoxifying everything we ingest. Without a healthy liver, you are in a state of disease. A state of disease means anything other than a state of wellness – there is always a spectrum. This disease state could be something you don’t connect to your liver such as depression, fatigue, fibromyalgia, or PMS. Most doctors only think about the health of your liver when you have blatant symptoms of liver disease such that they decide to do some lab tests and check for elevated enzymes or an ultrasound looking for fatty liver disease. These tests are rare and almost non-existent for young people still visiting a pediatrician never mind often ignored by adult doctors as well. The bad thing about this is that your liver could be in a state of disease and the symptoms are such that no one would think to look at the liver as a source of the problem.
Almost 10% of Teens Were Found to Have Fatty Liver Disease
Well, a shocking report just came out about teens and liver disease that will change your mind about the health of your own liver and that of your children. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHAMES) was examined by Marilyn Vos of Emery University and what she found is shocking! She found 9.9% of teens have Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). What’s worse is that the numbers are rising. This disorder which used to be rare is now affecting 1 in 10 teenagers! Our food supply is directly to blame for this disease. High amounts of fructose, sucrose and trans fats increases risk of NAFLD.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is high on the list of causes so I choose this to begin this discussion about how this one food affects the liver health of our children. This is NOT a guess, this is fact. Commercials sponsored by the food industry and/or government that tell you otherwise are NOT looking out for your best interest. (The politics of our food supply is a discussion for another day). Our children are consuming this in massive amounts in foods such as sports drinks, sodas, cookies, cereals and crackers. High Fructose Corn Syrup is found in many foods that are not considered junk such as tomato sauces, peanut butter, hummus, breads, yogurts, etc. And don’t be fooled by the new replacements which are just as bad such as Agave syrup and high maltose corn syrup. Stick with real sugar in limited amounts or Stevia for diabetics or those trying to lose weight to safely avoid fructose.
High Fructose Corn Syrup Tops the List of Troublesome Foods
The culprit with HFCS is the fructose itself. Fructose is metabolized 100% in the liver where regular glucose is metabolized only 20% in the liver which results in an overload to the liver. In addition, fructose stores three times the amount of fat then glucose fueling the epidemic of obesity. Fructose from fruit is also metabolized in the liver but if fruit is eaten in its whole state (not juice); it is absorbed slowly and does not over tax the liver. Some people do believe however that if you’re liver is already damaged you must limit fructose even from fruit. This would be especially true for diabetics also as their livers are already compromised.
So HFCS in abundance in our food supply and feed freely to our children begins the cycle of overtaxing the liver which leads to Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). Add to that the chemicals, drugs, alcohol, pesticides, trans fats, sucrose and GMO foods that go into their bodies as teens and young adults and now the liver is unable to do its job to detoxify. A few drinks a day or a medication might be fine for someone who doesn’t have fatty liver but for those afflicted with the disease they can’t process the alcohol and the liver begins to get worse.
Doctors Are Seeing More and More Diabetes and Health Issues In Children
NAFLD affects the liver’s ability to perform its job which includes regulation of blood glucose and cholesterol, fat burning ability, metabolism of hormones, vitamin A storage, and elimination of toxins. No wonder we see an increase in diseases in children such as Type II Diabetes and disorders such as depression and chronic fatigue. The liver is the central powerhouse of our body and without it working properly we become sick and overweight! A properly working liver can detoxify and get rid of unwanted substances. I recently watched a DVD on the liver by Dr. Ali Majik and he says that if a medication (or food) gives you side effects, think of that as your liver’s cry for help. I LOVE that! It makes so much sense as our liver should be healthy enough to process many toxins found in the diet and if not, you are overloading it or there is disease where it is unable to do its job.
NAFLD will shorten the life spans of our children as this disease progresses to a point of no return. Fatty liver will eventually lead to diabetes, hepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer. Once fatty liver becomes cirrhosis it is not reversible and you will eventually die. Experts say that the already long waiting list for liver transplants will grow to epidemic proportions in the years to come. This is a very sad reality for the future of our children never mind the implications for adults. Quality of life is reduced all along the way as the person experiences any array of symptoms and diseases such as depression, fatigue, cancer and inflammation.
The good news is that fatty liver is reversible. The liver is a remarkable organ as its the only one that can regenerate itself and heal. This change and healing must happen during the stage of fatty liver however since once the liver is severely scarred it is considered Cirrhotic and can no longer repair itself.
The American diet with all its “fake” foods is directly responsible for our state of obesity and the lack of wellness in our society. If you suffer from a lifestyle disease such as diabetes or hypertension or you are overweight, it’s time to take a look at what you are putting in your mouth but most importantly ask yourself this, “Am I killing my kids?”
The Good News Is That You Can Reverse Fatty Liver Disease with Proper Diet
Are you ready to make a change? Start simply by buying all your foods on the perimeter of the grocery store. Stay out of the aisles except for legumes and nuts and acceptable frozen foods such as vegetables, fruits and some organic and natural products. Eat “real” foods – grown in soil or animal products raised naturally without antibiotics or hormones. Limit eating out to special occasions and do your best to order as plain as possible when you do eat out. Be prepared for your busy week by cooking in advance so that busy evenings don’t become visits to the drive through of your favorite fast food joint. Begin with these simple changes and you will be amazed at how your health problems disappear but most importantly you will be saving your child’s life.