July 9, 2008

Numbers Game: Answer

Nutrition plays an important role in three of the Top 3 causes of death in the United States.

Those three being -- in order -- heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Looking at the entire top ten, nutrition is a risk increaser or decreaser -- depending on what you're doing -- for half of it (diabetes comes in at #6 and kidney disease takes the #9 spot.)

Although I suspect the majority of the population is aware of the link between food and health, nutrition is too often taken seriously only when a problem is well underway (after a heart attack, once diabetes has been diagnosed, etc.)

In simple terms, a lot of this comes back to education. More specifically, the lack thereof.

When I say "education," I am not referring to socioeconomic status or Ivy League diplomas. I am actually talking about a public education system that largely ignores a little something known as "life skills."

There are two subjects that should be part of every high school curriculum (not only in this country, but around the world): personal financing (so people know what to do -- and NOT do -- with their money when they start earning it) and nutrition.

I don't expect a room of tenth graders to understand carbohydrate metabolism or explain the causes of sarcopenia among the elderly.

But how about teaching them the tools to choose a healthier meal at McDonald's? Helping them understand why Oreos don't make for a good breakfast? Letting teenage girls know that having nothing but a medium frozen yogurt all day is not a healthy way to lose weight?

Otherwise, we're just going to be in an eternal game of catch up with diseases and conditions that are years in the making.

Image: Nutrition Matters, a free newsletter distributed in Toronto, Canada (produced by the Toronto Public Health Department and written by Registeed Dietitians.)

No comments: