Junk food + stress + lack of exercise + smoking = Sick America

Bill Maher has been ranting for years about poisonous American food, full of high fructose corn syrup and other non-nutritional junk.

His most recent “New Rules” rant says health care reform without diet reform is foolish:

President Obama has identified all the problems with the health care system, but there’s one tiny issue he refuses to tackle, and that’s our actual health.

And since Americans can only be prodded into doing something with money, we need to tax crappy foods that make us sick like we do with cigarettes, and alcohol — and alcohol actually serves a useful function in society in that it enables unattractive people to get laid, which is more than you can say for Skittles.

I’m not saying tax all soda, but certainly any single serving of soda larger than a baby is not unreasonable…

President Arugula is not gonna tell Americans they’re fat and lazy. No sin tax on food on Obama’s watch. And at a time when it’s important to set new standards for personal responsibility, he appointed a surgeon general, who is, I’m sorry, kind of fat. Certainly too heavy to be a surgeon general, it’s a role model thing. It would be like appointing a Secretary of the Treasury who didn’t pay his taxes. He did?

And get this: Surgeon General Benjamin had previously been a nutritional advisor to Burger King. The only advice a “health expert” should give Burger King is to stop selling food.

So a fascinating article in tomorrow’s New York Times could not be more timely. It says Americans live an average of 78 years, versus 80 in the U.K., 81 in Canada and France, and 83 in Japan. But — this research suggests — a big part of the problem is our unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits. We simply get sicker at a much higher rate than people in other countries. Illnesses tend to be detected earlier in America, and treatments tend to be more aggressive. But our sedentary, high-stress lifestyle and junk food addiction (and the delayed health effects of our once world-leading smoking rate) make us sicker than people who live more active, relaxed lifestyles and eat healthier foods:

A prominent researcher, Samuel H. Preston, has taken a closer look at the growing body of international data, and he finds no evidence that America’s health care system is to blame for the longevity gap between it and other industrialized countries. In fact, he concludes, the American system in many ways provides superior treatment even when uninsured Americans are included in the analysis.

“The U.S. actually does a pretty good job of identifying and treating the major diseases,” says Dr. Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania who is among the leading experts on mortality rates from disease. “The international comparisons don’t show we’re in dire straits.”

…This longevity gap, Dr. Preston says, is primarily due to the relatively high rates of sickness and death among middle-aged Americans, chiefly from heart disease and cancer….

“The U.S. has had one spectacular achievement in preventive medicine,” he says. “It has had the largest drop in cigarette consumption per adult of any developed country since 1985.” If Americans keep shunning cigarettes, the longevity gap could shrink no matter happens with the health care system.

Posted by James on Tuesday, September 22, 2009