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CR: A Tough Pill to Swallow

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, adults in the United States are on average more than 10 kgs heavier today than they were in 1960. With increasing American waistlines, incidence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes have also increased. Conventional treatments for these diseases now account for 75% of healthcare costs in the United States. Despite these rising costs a simple, low risk, cost effective treatment is being ignored.

Human calorie restriction has been maligned as starvation dieting, but calorie restriction of only 25% can greatly reduce the risk of age related diseases beyond the effects of weight loss alone. Long term 25% calorie restriction results in healthier cholesterol levels, blood pressure, fasting glucose and fasting insulin while still maintaining a healthy BMI. Calorie restriction has also been shown to prevent many cancers and protects against stroke induced brain injury.

Although mild calorie restriction is prescribed to treat many of these chronic diseases, patients often fail to self regulate caloric intake. In some cases, Americans unwilling to self regulate caloric intake opt for surgery to restrict stomach capacity despite risks of bleeding, infection, thromboembolism, ulcers, bowel obstruction, and nutritional deficiencies.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act attempts to address America’s eating problem by allowing employers to incentivize maintenance of healthy weight, low cholesterol, and low blood pressure with lower health insurance premiums. This makes health insurance premiums more similar to life insurance premium calculation, but under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expensive prescription medicines are still supplied to patients despite their failure to follow dietary recommendations.

Nationwide calorie restriction would greatly reduce healthcare costs, but it is difficult to convince Americans to minimize consumption. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Escherichia coli scares have had little impact on American desire for beef. Likewise, studies linking sugar intake to drug addiction have had little effect on the American sweet tooth. The last successful nationwide imposition of calorie restriction in the United States was only possible because of World War II.

There is hope for reduced chronic disease from over eating in the future. In the coming century, overpopulation and decreased food quality may make caloric restriction the only option for the American public.

dodo@scientastica.com

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