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Pie Chart of U.S. Food Comsumption in Calories

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See How Our Country Has Grown Since 1985


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66% of adults in the US are overweight or obese (33% overweight, 33% obese)
~ Center for Disease Control

34% of children in New York State are overweight or obese. ~ New York State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, MD

50% of children between the ages of 2 – 15 have fatty streaks in their arteries, literally the beginning stages of heart disease.~ Bogalusa Heart Study

33% of children born in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives. For African Americans and Latinos, the numbers rise to a frightening 40 – 53%. This means more blindness, amputations, kidney dialysis, heart disease, poor quality of life, and early death. ~ Center for Disease Control

35% of all cancer deaths are caused by diet (and 33% are caused by tobacco). We already have the solution to 68% of cancer deaths – and it is called prevention. ~ Doll and Peto, Journal of the National Cancer Institute ~ American Cancer Society

1 hotdog or 2 slices of bologna a week are enough to increase colorectal cancer risk by 30 – 50% in adult women, and children are more susceptible to carcinogens than adults. ~ American Cancer Society, News Center: Eating Lots of Red Meat Linked to Colon Cancer

~Journal of the American Medical Association, Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer

~World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research – Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer


by Joel Fuhrman, MD

There is a clear impact of nutrition on the potential development of Alzheimer’s disease and other late-life cognitive disorders.  Green vegetables, berries, and other plant foods reduce risk, whereas animal products and processed foods increase risk.1-4  In addition, the damaging effects of unhealthy foods on the brain occurs throughout life.  Research suggests that the typical American childhood diet including burgers, pasta, pizza, chicken nuggets, French fries, processed sweetened cold cereals, sweets and soda negatively affects school performance and learning. Overall math performance in the U.S. lags far behind many other developed nations5, and it is likely that the nutrient-poor American diet is a significant contributing factor.

We want the best for our children. We protect them with car seats, bike helmets, warm clothes in the winter, and we take an active interest in their schooling; we do everything we can to make sure that they will be healthy and well educated and achieve their potential as adults. However, most of us don’t realize the impact of food on our children’s academic performance.

Early childhood:

We must give our children’s brains the right raw materials with which to learn – and start early. Breast milk provides a DHA-rich foundation for a healthy brain, and when solid foods are added, their nutritional quality is of paramount importance for the brain’s continued development. Several studies have now found that dietary patterns in early childhood affect IQ scores years later. In one study, greater consumption of fruits and vegetables upon introducing solid foods was associated with higher IQ and better memory skills when at 4 years of age.6 In another study, children who regularly ate cookies, chocolate, other sweets, soda, and chips during the first two years of life showed decreased IQ at age 8 compared to children who did not eat these foods. Nutrition during this formative period has a meaningful long-term effect, providing building blocks to construct the growing brain.7 The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, so a healthful, plant-rich diet is especially beneficial.

Teenage years:

Young children who are fed processed, nutrient-poor foods are likely to become unhealthy teenagers, and eventually unhealthy adults. Now twenty-three percent of teens in the U.S. are pre-diabetic or diabetic, 22% have high or borderline high LDL cholesterol levels, and 14% have hypertension or prehypertension.8 Children as young as eight years old are being prescribed cholesterol and blood pressure lowering medications which have dangerous side effects, and this is completely preventable.

A recent study tested cognitive abilities and performed brain MRIs on teens with and without metabolic syndrome, a combination of at least three diet-related metabolic abnormalities among a list including insulin resistance, high triglycerides and hypertension. The teens with metabolic syndrome had lower spelling and math scores, lower IQs, and reduced attention span. Their brain MRIs showed a smaller hippocampus, especially in those with insulin resistance – extremely important since the hippocampus is a part of the brain involved in learning new information.9  This means that our obesity-promoting, diabetic promoting diet actually can cause parts of the brain to shrink. The researchers concluded that a poor diet may impair teenagers’ academic performance, and maybe even their learning abilities throughout their lifetime.

A processed and animal-product rich diet causes real damage to our kids, but we wouldn’t know if from following standard advice from the food industry and other sources. Feeding our children healthfully truly does make a difference in their future. A diet rich in greens, berries, other fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds is the only way to ensure that children get the array of phytochemicals, antioxidants, fatty acids and other micronutrients to adequately supply their growing and constantly learning brains. 

Dr. Fuhrman is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Eat to Live Cookbook and Super Immunity and a board certified family physician specializing in lifestyle and nutritional medicine. Read more about feeding children healthfully in Dr. Fuhrman’s book Disease Proof Your Child. Visit his informative website at and blog at, and follow Dr. Fuhrman at and on Twitter @DrFuhrman.

  1. Otsuka M, Yamaguchi K, Ueki A. Similarities and differences between Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia from the viewpoint of nutrition. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2002;977:155-161.
  2. Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al. Dietary fats and the risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol 2003;60:194-200.
  3. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Willis LM. Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain aging and behavior. J Nutr 2009;139:1813S-1817S.
  4. Devore EE, Kang JH, Breteler MM, et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol 2012.
  5. University of Southern California: U.S. Education Spending and Performance vs. the World. [Infographic]. Accessed October 12, 2012.
  6. Gale CR, Martyn CN, Marriott LD, et al. Dietary patterns in infancy and cognitive and neuropsychological function in childhood. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2009;50:816-823.
  7. Smithers LG, Golley RK, Mittinty MN, et al. Dietary patterns at 6, 15 and 24 months of age are associated with IQ at 8 years of age. Eur J Epidemiol 2012;27:525-535.
  8. May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999-2008. Pediatrics 2012;129:1035.
  9. Yau PL, Castro MG, Tagani A, et al. Obesity and metabolic syndrome and functional and structural brain impairments in adolescence. Pediatrics 2012;130:e856-864.


by Joel Fuhrman, MD

While genetics play a role in the expression of many diseases, and we all have genetic weaknesses and predispositions, for the vast majority of diseases that occur in the modern world, nutrition, exercise and environment play a much larger role than genetics. For example, those living in rural China prior to 1980 have a lifetime risk of heart disease of less than two percent and less than two percent risk of developing breast cancer, but when they move to America their children have the same high risks as other Americans.(1) When we abuse our bodies many different problems arise and what happens to you then may be influenced by your genetics.

Heart disease and diabetes are recent occurrences in the history of mankind. By 1916 it was already hypothesized by the well-known French scientist, C.D. de Langen that overeating and a diet rich in animal-fats appeared to be a factor in the populations of those European countries experiencing a rise in heart attacks. We cannot consider heart disease to be primarily genetic, because it did not occur much before the last hundred years and pockets of populations inhabiting the world today have no heart disease. By the 1950’s scientific investigations were
able to explain population differences in heart disease rates by differences in the consumption of saturated fat (the most important determinant of serum cholesterol, found primarily in foods of animal origin) and the inverse association with consumption of fresh produce. The less saturated fat and the more fresh produce consumed the less heart disease that occurs. A significant amount of modern research studies have documented that heart disease is almost totally
preventable through diet rich in plant produce and low in animal products and processed foods.(2)

Scientific Research Shows Food Is Our Greatest Weapon Against Disease
Over the last 50 years, this causal relationship between diet and heart disease has been observed and documented by thousands of scientific studies. The reality is that heart disease, the leading cause of death in the modern world, as well as the other leading causes of death, including various cancers and strokes, are created by our diet and are avoidable. Very few people have genetics so favorable that they can eat anything without concern. Heart disease is discussed here as an example but strokes, dementia and especially most common cancers can
all be traced back to an unhealthful diet-style as the predominant causative factor; especially the diet consumed in childhood.(3)

The Boyd Orr Study assessed food intake from almost 5000 families, tracking their risk of disease over the next 60 years. One of the major findings from this fascinating study was that higher levels of childhood fruit intake had dramatic effect at reducing incidence of all adult cancers, such as cancer of the breast, prostate and colon. Children in the highest quartile of fruit intake became adults with forty percent lower risk of all cancers.(4) However children who ate more
nutritionally empty calories and more calories in general had dramatically higher risk of cancer.(5)

These and numerous other studies illustrate that food choices, especially food choices early in life are the primary cause of most chronic diseases and premature death. Inferior childhood nutrition has led to a nation with high levels of chronic illnesses, and out of control health care costs.

The American Diet is Nutritionally Inadequate
Americans eat about 26 percent of calories from animal products, such as meat, eggs and dairy.

Animal products contain no antioxidants, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K or those thousands of phytochemicals that are essential for cellular normalcy and prevent DNA damage.

Americans eat about 62 percent of calories from processed foods such as oil, sugar, and white flour products. Processed foods contain almost no antioxidants, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K or those thousands of phytochemicals that are essential for cellular normalcy and prevent DNA damage.

To make matters worse, most of the animal products eaten by children such as butter, cheese and milk are high in saturated fat. Saturated fat consumption correlates with cancer incidence worldwide. It also raises cholesterol and causes heart disease. Scientific studies also show that the combination of low micronutrient intake plus high saturated fat (found mostly in foods of animal origin) is more disease causing than either alone.(6) The typical American diet, high in both processed foods, animal fats, and unfavorable fats, is the perfect formula for a nation of sickly children and adults.

The development of heart disease begins in childhood. Fifty percent of children ages 2 – 15 already have fatty streaks in their arteries, literally the beginning stages of heart disease. Not only do unhealthy childhood diets high in saturated fat and low in the protective micronutrients found in unprocessed plant foods accelerate heart disease, but they promote the aging process, and create a cellular environment favorable for the development of cancer. To add insult to injury, much of the processed foods children eat are rich in trans fat, a man-made fat that is also linked to cancer and heart disease. While many processed food companies are switching over to nontrans fats, they are replacing them with saturated fats, still very dangerous to health.

We could not have designed a cancer-causing environment more effectively if we
scientifically planned it. We feed our children a diet high in saturated fat, add lots of processed foods with those dangerous (man-made) trans fats, and full of other non-food chemicals such as artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners, and combine it with an insufficient intake of unrefined plant foods, to guarantee sufficient phytochemical deprivation and we have created a nation rich in autoimmune illnesses, allergies, obesity, diabetes and finally heart disease and cancer.

Research is Inconclusive…
The reason why some studies performed on adults did not show a relationship between diet (or certain components of diet) and disease is that the
changes made are not substantial enough and the populations investigated are past the age where dietary improvements can cause dramatic benefits. Childhood diets are the chief cause of adult cancers, not adult diets. When we are growing, the cells are more sensitive to the damaging effects of poor nutrition.

Nutrient Dense Food
Food has powerful disease–protecting and therapeutic effects and those who seek truly good health must consume a broad array of micronutrients via their food choices. It is not enough to merely avoid the bad fats, consume foods with a low glycemic index, or lower the intake of animal products; a truly healthy diet must do all of those things and be micronutrient rich. The foods with the highest micronutrient per calorie scores are green vegetables, colorful vegetables, and fresh fruits. For optimal health and to combat disease, it is necessary to consume enough of these foods to deliver the highest concentration of nutrients.

Adding up all the known and measurable micronutrients in an equal caloric portion of food gives each food a nutrient density score. Nutrient Density is a critical concept in devising and recommending dietary and nutritional advice to patients and to the public. Not merely vitamins and minerals, but adequate consumption of phytochemicals is essential for a normal immune system and to enable our body’s detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms that protect us from cancer and other diseases.

Nutritional science in the last twenty years has demonstrated that colorful plant foods contain a huge assortment of protective compounds, mostly unnamed at this point. Only by eating an assortment of natural plant foods that are nutrient-rich, can we access these compounds and protect ourselves from the common diseases that afflict Americans. Our modern, low-nutrient eating style leads to an overweight population with common diseases of “nutritional ignorance” and medical costs spiraling out of control.

For superior health, green vegetables, fresh fruits, seeds and nuts, whole grains and beans or legumes should all be consumed each day. To achieve adequate micronutrient density both animal products and processed foods must be restricted to much lower levels than they are now, or even eliminated.

Protecting our children
We graduate from high school, college, even graduate and professional schools and yet most of us never learn some of the most important lessons in our lives - how to be in control of our health destiny. We live in a society that believes that we protect our health with access to medical care and drugs; it doesn’t work. We also live in a society that makes it cheap and easy to eat poorly, and more difficult to eat healthfully. We can only win the fight against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, not with more money put into medical interventions and drugs, but by unleashing the powerful tools found in our kitchens--berries, green vegetables, beans and seeds to name a few. The science is important and motivating because we are eating ourselves into a tremendous amount of needless and tragic diseases in this country and our cancer rates have increased unrelentingly each year for the last seventy years. The human suffering and financial cost are both devastating.

But aside from all the convincing scientific data, it is just as important to show people how they can deal with their picky eaters, get their family to like the healthful foods at the family table and make healthy eating great tasting and fun. After gaining the knowledge, people can transition their family over to a disease-preventive lifestyle and enjoy the change.

The food industry influences the policy decisions and legislation created by our government, and this means that we don’t get the information which science has unmistakably demonstrated. The food industry attempts to confuse us by citing a few poorly designed or self-staged studies and saying the evidence is inconclusive.

The most amazing and satisfying aspect of promoting a high micronutrient diet-style and utilizing it as medical therapy is watching many diseases melt away. People faced with health challenges can often improve and even obtain complete recoveries from autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, type 2 diabetes, headaches and heart disease to name a few, via nutritional excellence. The human body is a miraculous, self-healing machine when the optimal nutritional environment for healing is realized.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D is a family physician and best-selling author Eat To Live (2003), Eat For Health (2008), and the acclaimed Disease-Proof Your Child. (2005), essential reading for every parent in America.

Dr. Fuhrman's Website
Blog - Disease Proof
Dr. Fuhrman on YouTube

(1) Shannon J, Ray R, Wu C, Nelson Z. Food and botanical groupings and risk of breast cancer: a case-control study in Shanghai, China. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2005 Jan;14(1):81-90.

(2) Tucker KL, Hallfrisch J, Qiao N, et al. The combination of high fruit and vegetable and low saturated fat intakes is more protective against mortality in aging men than is either alone: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Nutr. 2005; 135(3):556-61. Hu FB, Willett WC. Optimal diets for prevention of coronary heart disease. JAMA 2002 Nov 27;288(20):2569-2578.

(3) Steinmetz KA, Potter JD. Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: a review. J Am Diet Assoc 1996 Oct;96(10):1027-1039.

(4) Maynard M, Gunnell D, Emmett P, et al. Fruit, vegetables, and antioxidants in childhood and risk of adult cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2003; 57(3):218-25.

(5) Frankel S, Gunnell DJ Peteres TJ, et al. Childhood energy intake and adult mortality form cancer: The Boyd Off Cohort Study. BMJ 1998;316(7130):499-504.

(6) Tucker KL ; Hallfrisch J ; Qiao N ; et al. The combination of high fruit and vegetable and low saturated fat intakes is more protective against mortality in aging men than is either alone: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Nutr. 2005; 135(3):556-61.

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Beans at Cayuga Pure Organics near Ithaca, NY

Beans at Cayuga Pure Organics near Ithaca, NY

Food Vendor Display at School Nutrition Conference

Food Vendor Display at School Nutrition Conference

Students learn about healthy, affordable "real" food

Students learn about healthy, affordable "real" food

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