With recent aid in Japan and intervention in Libya, the United States is offering assistance to those affected by tragedy. Yet, America’s involvement in world affairs isn’t always such a good thing. In fact, it seems that we may be unintentionally killing off the world’s population.
One Big Mac at a time.
Yes, it’s true, nasty eating habits are literally taking over the world. I mean, if we want to be unhealthy about the food we eat, that’s one thing. But pushing it on nations that traditionally have faced very few of the health risks we do is something completely different.
Such is the topic of “Consumption” by Kevin Patterson, a book I picked up based on the awesome-looking cover, which actually ended up being a fascinating read. I love it when that happens.
Patterson, a physician, spent some time working at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan as an internist-intensivist. So, naturally, he’s seen all sorts of casualties, mostly Afghan civilians caught in crossfire and National Army soldiers.
“Consumption” takes a fictional look at the dichotomy between those who practice western eating habits and those who do not, with a particular emphasis on his work with the Inuit in Canada.
During his time in Afghanistan, Patterson found that operating on Afghan males (often weighing 140 lbs. or less) was almost as foreign as operating on another species.
Normally, when operating on a Canadian or American, there’s a wall of fat encasing every organ. And the absence of any abdominal fat in his Afghan patients led Patterson to believe that the effects of urbanization is making everyone in the world fatter and sicker.
Like everyone else, Patterson points to Type 2 Diabetes and the long term inability of our bodies to secrete enough insulin. Seventy to 80 years ago, Type 2 Diabetes didn’t exist, and now it’s even creeping its way into undeveloped countries.
The culprit? Western eating patterns and cheap food.
It’s much easier and cost efficient to fly processed foods to rural areas than it is to fly in fresh food or even keep up with traditional diets. This problem is similar to those in impoverished inner city areas that rely on fast food as the main means of nourishment due to inflated fresh food prices.
This acculturation effect can be seen everywhere, even in countries that previously had no concept of fast food restaurants. This is particularly evident when Patterson performs surgeries on non-western peoples whose bodies now look shockingly similar to those in North America.
But the problem doesn’t simply end at the Burger King on the corner. Now the worldwide epidemic is coming full circle and putting a strain not only on American health care systems, but also those of the global community as well.
No country has unlimited resources to devote to continual diabetic treatment. Not to mention, the medical industry cannot keep up with the rapidly increasing rate of global Type 2 Diabetes patients, especially considering the vast amount of more pressing concerns in the medical field.
According to an article from National Public Radio on the predicament of the global health care system, Saipan (located in the Marianas Island in the Pacific) dialysis rates are rising by 18 percent a year due to diabetes levels and the acculturation effect I spoke of earlier.
As is the case with every discussion on obesity and world health care, there’s no easy and clean way to wrap things up. Discussions will go on and on, and very rarely does anything get done about it.
But Patterson’s book was a wake-up call for me. I had no idea that the food choices I make are increasingly affecting the food choices that those in countries halfway around the globe are being forced to make.
And that, for me at least, is enough to make me think twice about what I eat.