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So when when Healthline.com approached me, asking if I’d be interested in their writing up a few “guest posts” for me, it was a great opportunity to have an actual expert post on these pages.
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The Link between Diet and Health Conditions
It seems that everyday researchers are proving yet again that we really are what we eat and that those of us who opt to eat a healthy diet are healthy, and those who eat an unhealthy diet, well, you can guess the rest.
The link between diet and health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease is something that we’ve known about for a long time; still the number of people with these diseases continues to rise at an alarming rate with a good percentage of these cases being directly related to poor diet and lifestyle choices. As a matter of fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 30 percent of cancer deaths –which equates to approximately 2.4 million deaths—are the result of poor diet and lifestyle choices. Imagine being able to save a good portion of those lives simply by making smarter food choices!
How Diet is linked to Disease
Poor diet has been linked to a myriad of health conditions. Here is a look at some of those conditions and how they are linked.
Heart disease is made up of many different health conditions and those that are closely related, just some of which include hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, and heart attack. When the heart is unable to do its job, which is to act as a pump that continuously pumps in oxygen-rich blood and pumps out oxygen-poor blood throughout the arteries, these conditions can be the result. Diet is often the culprit and in particular one that’s high in fat, cholesterol, and salt. A poor diet and excess weight places pressure on the heart and restricts blood flow by hardening and clogging the arteries. It can also cause high blood pressure which can lead to stroke and kidney failure.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), obesity is strongly associated with the development of type 2 diabetes because excess weight causes insulin resistance. As we know, eating a healthy diet can help keep our weight in check which has been found to greatly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is especially important for those who carry their weight in the middle. Excess belly fat causes your body to produce more of the hormones that damage blood vessels and put you at risk for all kinds of disease.
There is ongoing research about the link between diet and cancer. What we know so far is that there are indications that diet can reduce a person’s risk of getting cancer. One of the best examples of this is brightly colored fruits and vegetables and whole grains. These foods contain phytochemicals that have been linked to the prevention of the formation of cancer-causing agents known as carcinogens.
Diet plays a major role in the prevention and management of osteoporosis. Our bones naturally lose calcium as we age, yet few people bother to add more sources of calcium to their diets. If anything, most people drink less milk as they age and a lot of times avoid dairy products. Calcium from the foods you eat is better absorbed by your body than calcium supplements, so adding low-fat dairy products to your diet can actually help to prevent osteoporosis.
Though you can’t replace the calcium that’s already been lost, increasing the amount of calcium in your diet can slow the progression of bone deterioration. And, vitamin C and D helps your body to better absorb calcium. Deficiency of both vitamins has also been linked to the development of certain cancers, scurvy, and a poor immune system.
The Benefits of a Healthy Diet
Now that you have a clearer picture of how a poor diet can lead to disease, let’s end on a positive note and look at the benefits of a good diet on your health.
A healthy diet, which is considered one that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, offers the following benefits:
• A stronger immune system
• Reduced risk of infection
• Less inflammation
• Lower risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease
• Better moods
• Improved endurance
• Stronger muscles and bones which lowers your risk of injury
• Healthy pregnancy
• Lower body weight
• Healthier skin, nails, and hair
• Younger looking skin
If you’d like to learn more about diet and the diseases and benefits linked to healthy eating, click here.
• Cancer Fact sheet N°297. (February 2014). World Health Organization (WHO). Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/
• Heart Disease. (August 2009). The Heart and Stroke Foundation. Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484021/k.7C85/Heart_Disease.htm
• Mayo Clinic Staff. (January 2013). Heart Disease: Risk Factors. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on March 12, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/basics/risk-factors/con-20034056
• National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). (September 2013). Causes of Diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/causes/#type2
• Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk. The Stanford Cancer Institute (SCI). Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://cancer.stanford.edu/information/nutritionAndCancer/reduceRisk/
• Diet-Related Diseases. Purdue University. Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://www.four-h.purdue.edu/foods/Diet-Related%20Diseases.htm
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.