Energy-rich, nutrient poor diets contribute to what’s known as the “double-burden” of malnutrition; the co-existence of obesity and nutrient deficiencies. We also know that chronic excessive energy intake can result in abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension and dyslipidemia; risk factors for diet-related chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes (this is also known as metabolic syndrome).
For those who think in numbers — the issue is reflected too on a systematic level. Published in 2018, “The economic burden of not meeting food recommendations” study estimates diet-related diseases to cost the Canadian Health Care System $13.8 billion per year.
But we know that transitioning from a processed, nutrient-poor diet for one rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and quality proteins is not as easy as it seems. And it’s a privilege in itself to have the time, necessary kitchen equipment and access to groceries stores.
It’s less on the fault of the individual, and more of the collective when we consider those who are experiencing any degree of food insecurity. Ultimately, we need to critique our nations collective nutritional status through the lens of our social infrastructure:
What are we doing to harness individuals, and in particularly today’s youth, to take charge of their nutrition?
The next time we see someone in a poor nutritional status, instead of having them spearhead the blame, let’s check our own privilege and ask ourselves:
- Are we advocating for comprehensive and mandatory nutrition education in schools?
- Are we supporting community food programs and local food banks?
- Are we reducing food waste, or diverting food waste to those who could benefit?
- Are we making nutritional information accessible, and understandable, to the public?
It’s undeniable that we need to change the way we approach nutrition in today’s society. However, I believe that in highlighting our lack of nutrition education simultaneously provides us with a potential solution:
Using nutrition education to blunt the impact of financial and physical barriers in accessing foods, while creating a useful tool to help people take ownership of their nutritional status.
It’s definitely some food for thought.