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How the Food We Eat is Killing Our Economy
1 in 5 dollars ($3.2 trillion per year) in the entire US economy is spent on healthcare. 1 in 4 dollars in the federal budget is spent on Medicare and Medicaid. That is almost $1,000 a month for every man, woman, and child in the country.
These numbers are expected to grow in the coming years, and diet-related disease is a large part of the challenge. My guest on this week’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy is here to talk about how our choices around food significantly impact our economy in addition to our health.
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian is a cardiologist, Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition and Medicine, and Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, the oldest and most renowned graduate school of nutrition in North America. He has authored more than 300 scientific publications on the dietary priorities to reduce cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity in the US and globally; and on evidence-based systems innovations and policies to effectively reduce these burdens.
Dr. Mozaffarian explains in this week’s episode that food is one of the few parts of our economy where the safety is left to the consumer. Imagine if we let our children go to a toy store where some toys are safe, some toys are moderately safe, and others were completely dangerous. This would be unacceptable, and it is pretty much what we get when we go to the grocery store to choose our food.
Dr. Mozaffarian also dives into the idea that food is not just calories. Food is nuanced and it reacts with our individual bodies, our microbiome, our hormones, and more. Some foods help us, some foods have little effect on the body, and some foods harm us. He elaborates on what these foods are, and how we can eat a diet that nourishes us instead of harms us on a day to day basis.
The big takeaway message from this episode is this: By redistributing where the money goes, we can encourage consumers to purchase healthy foods and discourage them from purchasing junk. Dr. Mozaffarian advocates for taxing junk foods and spending that money to lower the cost of real, whole foods. According to Dr. Mozaffarian, “A national program to subsidize the cost of fruits and vegetables by 10 percent could save 150,000 lives over 15 years, while a national 10 percent soda tax could save 30,000 lives.”
By addressing our health care system, quality standards, economic incentives, school programs, labeling, and nutrition research, we can make a big difference in the health of our world.