Ahh the Western Diet, the culprit for the massive rise in obesity and diabetes along with heart disease and many other chronic illnesses. The fast food diet, refined sugars and carbs and of course processed foods to save us time, that's the Western Diet. Sugary drinks are the cornerstone of the Western diet or the fast food diet. Candy bars have been highlighted as a key example of processed foods. Ingredients such as fructose and palmitic acid mean may initiate a low-level immune response in the body distracting the immune system from other infections. Here's how the Western style of eating is affecting the rest of the world.
The developing world is seeing rapid urbanization, with more than half of the world's population now living in cities and this figure expected to reach 70% by 2050. This progression brings with a much more urban lifestyle, which leads to less physical activity and consumption of a "Western" diet. Many experts speculate that a nutrition transition is happening globally.
It's simple, as income goes up, people eat more calories and meat in their diet. Now there is a major group of people around the world who are malnourished in a different way —because they eat processed foods that have no nutritional benefit.
Processed foods have low nutritional value but everyone has major access to them and what's more they're cheaper. A diet high in these foods is even worse.
So what is a Western diet?
The major features are eating too many over-refined sugars and carbs, highly refined saturated fats, animal protein and a reduced intake of plant-based fibers. Hence, a diet high in fat, red meat, salt and sugars and low in fiber comes about.
A Western diet full of highly processed and refined foods also throws off your immune system, increasing your risk of infection. Foods containing fructose and palmitic acid which is common in candy bars can kick-start an immune reaction. Palmitic acid can actually confuse the body with a bacteria like E.Coli.
Eating this way also changes your gut bacteria. Your gut microbes play a crucial role in the health and well being of not only your gut, but your whole body. This is heavily connected with how strong your immune system is. Eating processed foods can cause the good bacteria in your gut to be pushed out -- leaving you more exposed to the bad ones.
Globally, obesity is on the rise and this way of eating truly matters to that bigger issue. In 2014, more than 600 million adults were obese globally and almost 2 billion adults were overweight. Obesity exposes individuals to disease such as diabetes which comes from inflammation in the body which is high in obese individuals.
Increased obesity levels are also thought to contribute to a rise in cases of joint conditions and replacements, due to the extra pressure and wear placed on the joints.
The Western diet also increases the risk for many different cancers but especially colon and prostate cancer. Recent studies showed men who eat mostly a Western diet were found to have 2.5 times the risk of dying from prostate cancer while the risks associated with colon cancer again linked back to inflammation and a change in the activities of gut bacteria.
In his study, he compared the impact of a diet in a group of South Africans and African Americans and found African American men to have 50 times more risks of developing colon cancer.