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Is it Possible to Eat One’s Way to Good Health?


Americans are constantly confronted with information about poor diet and exercise habits.  As a group, U.S. residents eat more and exercise less than almost any other group on earth.

A new report posted on msnbc.com indicates that some states lose as much as $15 billion per year in obesity costs.  The study was conducted by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  It found that direct healthcare costs associated with obesity-related health problems ranged in 2010 from $293 million in Wyoming to $15.2 billion in California.

The study used 2006 medical expenditure figures to generate an equation that led to the 2010 estimates.  The study also looked at the percentage of each state’s total medical costs that were attributable to obesity.  They found that in 10 states that percentage exceeded 10%.

Former President Bill Clinton is one of the millions of Americans who has endured chronic struggles to control his weight.  Clinton was known for his love of burgers, barbecue and junk food.  He underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2005 and then stent surgery in 2010.  Clinton then began a strict eating plan to improve his health and to lose weight prior to his daughter’s wedding in 2010.

Clinton has gone public with his diet.  He is not only following a vegetarian diet (no beef, poultry, fish or seafood) but states that he is following a vegan diet.  Vegans are vegetarians who also do not eat dairy products, eggs or honey.

Clinton lost some 24 pounds prior to his daughter Chelsea’s wedding and has continued to lose weight.  He has continued to discuss his diet in the media and has publicized the health benefits of this type of diet.

The Vegetarian Resource Group states that 3% of American adults are vegetarians and 1% are full vegans.  The group claims that this percentage has doubled since 1994 and that an additional 22 million Americans are “vegetarian inclined”—meaning they support the vegetarian lifestyle although they occasionally eat chicken or fish.

Elizabeth Turner, Editor-in-Chief of The Vegetarian Times, says in an article in USA Today, “What the science shows is that people who are vegetarian have a lower risk of heart disease , especially colon cancer, and they tend to live longer.  They are also less likely to be overweight”.

After Clinton’s angioplasty and stents in 2010 he undertook moderate diet and lifestyle changes; but that several doctors told him this was not enough to keep heart disease from progressing.  He was told, however, that more intensive changes could actually reverse the disease.

The problem with a vegan diet of course is that it is very limited in variety and taste that many people simply get sick of it.  The point is that what works for Bill Clinton may not work for everyone; but the debate alone is beneficial.  There is absolutely no question that collectively Americans eat and exercise poorly and that our collective health and our economy are the worse for it.


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