As Americans, we have accepted without pause that sickness is inevitable.
And why wouldn’t we? Six in 10 adults suffer from chronic disease. More than likely, we all know someone, or multiple people, living with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
But what if I told you that there is another way?
Imagine a world that no longer celebrates cures for chronic disease but expects them. Instead of being surprised by successfully preventing, treating, or overcoming chronic disease, we would expect that most chronic disease no longer needs to be managed but can be reversed.
But first we must recognize that our current approach to tackling the epidemic of chronic disease is flawed. It is based on an outdated approach of treating the systems of chronic disease rather than the root causes, mostly our diet and food system. Currently, our diet is made up of 60% ultra-processed “food,” concoctions of industrial food components that have now been proven to be the biggest cause of disease and death on the planet, killing more people than anything else, including smoking.
The role of food in both causing and curing chronic disease has been long ignored by healthcare and policymakers. Americans’ health, wellness, and longevity suffer as a result.
It does not have to be this way. Advances in nutrition science, the application of food as medicine, has the power to radically improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease were rare at the turn of the last century. They do not have to be inevitable.
But eradicating chronic disease at its root requires us to re-imagine the way we incentivize food and nutrition in this country. Our current food policies and dietary guidelines are outdated and harmful — both to our physical health and the economic health of our nation.
Lawmakers ought to keep this in mind as they debate this year’s farm bill. Food is medicine. Proper nutrition is well documented as being effective in preventing, managing, and curing many chronic diseases, improving long-term wellness, and generating substantial savings through cost avoidance. If we are armed with nutrient-dense foods from the early days of our lives, our bodies may be well-equipped to fight disease before its onset as we age.
Indeed, data show that using food as treatment for diabetes alone decreases the risk of death or serious complications by at least 40%.
Even more telling, these patients saw an 80% drop in their healthcare costs. In other words, supporting food as medicine in this year’s farm bill has the potential to not only treat and heal, but to finally address our country’s outrageous spending on healthcare.
This is a commonsense, bipartisan initiative that puts Americans’ health and wellness first. That’s something we can all support.
Congress's farm bill could improve our health
By Dr. Mark Hyman
June 29, 2023