IS THE AMERICAN DIET causing depression, unhappiness, addiction, and apathy in addition to the many obesity-related physical diseases? The decline in mental health and happiness in the U.S. is baffling. Americans should be happier, as the overall standard of living has improved, yet they are not, according to the 2019 World Happiness Report, which ranks America 19th among 132 countries.
The report indicates that happiness and mental health have been on a slow but steady decline since at least 2000. Suicide rates have increased to a 30-year high, while substance abuse, especially of opiates, has become epidemic. Why is this happening? Contributing factors are deemed to be a decline in our social capital and support, coupled with the increased use of digital and electronic media, but another cause may be food--to be more specific, poor quality, highly preserved, modified, chemically and additive laden foods; in other words, junk food diets.
Over the past 60 years, there has been a rise in incidences of obesity and physical illnesses such as diabetes, coronary and digestive diseases, strokes, tumors, and cancers--as well as mental illnesses such as depression, ADHD, autism, dementia, and Alzheimer's. Is it a coincidence that these increases occurred at the very same time Western diets were experiencing drastic changes? Why is it that, wherever fast food diets go, these diseases follow?
After World War II, major changes were made to the way our food is grown and processed to allow for mass production feeding an ever-growing population. Pharmaceuticals started to play a huge role in agriculture by the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides protecting plants in killing their intruders. Plants absorb toxins and thus, seeds have to be genetically modified to withstand the poisons intended for their protection.
These seeds are patented by leading pharmaceutical companies, forcing farmers into exclusivity agreements restricting replanting or reselling. Moreover, antibiotics and a number of steroid hormone drugs were introduced for livestock, protecting them from disease while increasing and accelerating their growth rate--and what is sprayed on or fed remains in the food source, depleting, altering, and contaminating its nutrients.
Processing procedures were sped up, further increasing the depletion of essential nutrients. To compensate for the loss of flavor and nutrition, the food industry employs additives, artificial flavors, and colorants--and...