There’s a lot of really cheap food out there. Whether your getting supersized off the dollar menu, stocking up on snacks, or going to an all you can eat buffet, it’s easy to find a deal. In fact, Americans spend less of their household income on food than any other country in the world.
Our food is cheap, and we eat a lot of it. 70% of Americans are overweight, and over 30% are obese. How much does being overweight cost? In the United States alone obesity has an annual cost of a whopping $190 billion dollars. This past week, the American Heart Association made the shocking announcement that heart disease would carry an annual price of $1 trillion dollars a year by 2030. Heart disease and obesity alone stand to cripple our healthcare system and bankrupt the nation in less than 20 years.
In economics there is the term, externality. Here’s the concept ABCs. An externality is a side effect or consequence of an industrial or commercial activity that affects other parties without it being reflected in the cost of the goods or services involved.
Let’s think about it… a side effect, or consequence. There are positive and negative externalities to every industry. The food industry enjoys the positive externality of giving us food that keeps us alive. Unfortunately, the negative externality, or consequence, of the modern Western diet is that it is making us sick and fat- with devastating economic effects on the horizon. This is an externality because although, for example, McDonald’s supersized sodas contribute to obesity, McDonald’s doesn’t bare any of the costs.
Our caloric intake has skyrocketed, going up almost a thousand calories a day since the 1980s. Meanwhile, diabetes has had a close correlation in growth to our caloric increase, largely due to our love of sugar. Sugar is in everything and is baked right into our medical bills.
The housing bubble burst in 2008, leading to the Great Recession. The next financial crisis in America will likely be caused by another burst, this one from our waistlines. Knee replacements alone cost $30 billion dollars a year in the United States. After heart disease, cancer is the next leading cause of death in the United States. The number two and three types of cancer, after lung cancer, are prostate and bowel cancer. We are what we eat, and it is killing us.
There is a high cost to cheap food and it is breaking the bank. So what’s the solution? Populations that primarily consume plant-based diets that are low in processed foods and refined sugars have almost none of the health issues we are facing in current crisis. Eating to live, not living to eat is our way out of this mess. Finding peace starts with what’s on the end of our fork. Sharing meals with family and friends is one of the most essential cornerstones of the human existence. Doesn’t it make sense to eat healthy foods with one another, and encourage ourselves and the people we love to eat well, exercise, and enjoy a long quality life?
We are living longer yes, but for many, the final years are full of unnecessary suffering often caused by lifestyle decisions- what we eat, drink, and the products we use. Yep, we are all going to die, but how we feel until then, and how we will eventually go out, is in many ways foretold by what’s on our plate.