It’s important that note that the onset of MS often occurs in young adults – so the study projections clearly spotlight a global issue that is not going away nor is it something we can ignore in our conversations about health.
Long before the current pandemic, we were warned of an obesity epidemic that affects every demographic segment, but especially the most vulnerable members of our population including minorities and lower income individuals. Children growing up in families where food dollars must be stretched are often at risk of being overweight and having a higher body mass index (BMI) that is associated with more chronic disease occurrence and comorbidities (the presence of two or more conditions) in adulthood. Several studies also have shown a correlation between a higher BMI and developing dementia in later life.2
No nation, developed or developing, is immune from the obesity health crisis that while it existed in advance of COVID 19 is additionally concerning as a risk factor and predictor of outcomes if the virus is contracted. Contributing factors cited by public health officials include: inaccessibility of healthcare; nutrition education; availability of sugar-filled and high “empty calorie” snacks; and reduced physical activity. While some of these factors are not entirely within our control, others are modifiable to some degree and solutions in every demographic segment must be explored if we are to improve overall health outcomes.
A maelstrom of medical concerns.
In the wake of COVID 19, sedentary lifestyles and a shift to “comfort foods” during these stressful times, we’ve seen weight gains in both adults and children.3 Availability of fresh produce or inability to purchase whole foods had us reaching for shelf-stable products that are often higher in fat and carbohydrates and lower in nutrients. Now we must find a way to break these learned bad habits and try to return to our healthier ways if we are to potentially ward off another wave of chronic diseases associated with obesity, unresolved stress and lack of exercise along with an increase in alcohol consumption.
One food in particular has been of particular concern. Sugar and its various forms (e.g. high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and glucose) are often ingredients in many of our most-reached for foods. Aside from contributing to obesity, excessive sugar intake can also cause inflammation that is at the root of every disease, raise blood pressure and has been linked to heart disease and stroke.
Acknowledge the changes we must make today for our health tomorrow.
There is a great deal about the current pandemic that we still don’t know – but, we do know there are numerous health issues that already plagued us and are factors in many, many conditions. So we can’t talk about finding solutions for one major health crisis and not address the others.
The lessons we teach our children should be to think about health as a journey and not as a response to a major event that we can subsequently forget about when it’s over. It’s not just our brain or general health that will suffer – it’s the health of our society as well. Chronic illness that has modifiable attributes is costly on so many levels. And having these important conversations, with our family, our physicians and ourselves, and recognizing what we can change is key to reducing the risk of disease and helping us to just feel better every day.
In hope of healing for all,
Dr. Suzanne Gazda
References and additional reading:
1 Medical Xpress.com (August 26, 2020)
2 To the Point, Quick Takes on Healthcare Policy and Practice.
3 Food Safety News
Dr. Robert Lustig, https://robertlustig.com/
Sugar education: https://robertlustig.com/sugar-education/