Americans fatally attracted to slow death of fast food

The recent article “Fighting to be fit” (March 16) featured a fellow physician commenting that obesity in our community is partly due to genetics.

I do not agree with this conclusion. For the record, I have the utmost respect for the doctor as he continues to safeguard the community into the pandemic. Hence, this is by no means a got-ya piece. My only intention is to reveal that our forefathers should not fall upon the guillotine secondary to today’s lifestyle preferences.

The good news: There’s light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train.

I entered medicine influenced by my father, a combat-decorated vascular surgeon who instilled the lesson that the body is the ultimate machine. The body is not defective. Our current society has turned food into an enemy combatant.

No matter one’s take on the origins of COVID-19, the data were clear exiting China that people with comorbidities fared worse. This should have been the wake up-call. Instead, food away from home, as tracked by the USDA, flourished. Dine-in pizza commercials were switched to delivery. Review the obesity maps over the past 40 years — obesity was steady around the 10% range (of the population) until it began to skyrocket each decade (from the 1980s) to where it’s not currently leveling off at 42%.

This is not genetics — genetics takes centuries to have an effect of this magnitude.

Every day we insult our most precious commodity, our children. They are becoming increasingly sick at a younger age. A majority of my patients strike middle age around the late 20s-early-30s threshold.

It is not uncommon to see teenagers with the metabolic trifecta of fatty liver, elevated lipids and diabetes. Pediatricians are diagnosing type 2 diabetes routinely in children younger than 10 years of age. This falls on our watch.

The military tried making this point in 2010 with a document titled “Too Fat To Fight.” The panel of retired military generals, admirals and other senior leaders of the U.S. Armed Forces outlined roughly 60% of 17-24-year-olds would not be able to enlist secondary to medical deficiencies leading to national security concerns. Zach Bush, an endocrinologist, stated several years ago that he used to treat the 60-year-old woman with new-onset type 2 diabetes. Then it became her 40-year-old daughter. Now, he’s treating the 20-year-old granddaughter. He hypothesized this would lead to eventual extinction.

I used to think this was a rather farfetched assertion until the clinical presentations for such an event occurred with significant regularity: morbid obesity in young women causing polycistic ovary syndrome. Advancing atherosclerosis in young males leading them to inquire about Viagra in their 20s.

Take a drive within the city or on the expressway — it’s filled with nothing but fake food. At Ed Carey and Business 77, we have hospitals and pharmacies on one side against a fortress of fast food on the other. Driving home from work, the carnival aroma at the aforementioned intersection alerts me to location.

What’s the recent addition to the landscape? Dialysis centers.

A recent Valley Morning Star article featured elected officials blathering about profits to be generated from incoming popular restaurants. That’s the entirely wrong take. These restaurants will create further medical concerns leading to a negative balance sheet.

Until we realize our food system is the cause for a majority of illness, there’s not another pill, procedure or surgery that’s going to extend our life. In the meantime, medical journals will proudly publish outcomes stating bariatric surgery in 16-19-year-olds is just as effective for 13-15 year-olds. Welcome to a world of pre-quinceañera gastric bypass.

In terms of what to eat, the basics are not only the healthiest but among the most affordable. When I drive past a fried chicken establishment advertising family meal deals for $25, I mutter to myself that’s about as much as I spend on dinner for the week. The troubling part is all the confusion created in terms of profit.

Michael Pollan, a well-known food author, once coined the phrase, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” This approach would stave off the massive loss of life that should not be occurring within our community on a daily basis.

We know lifestyle is the driver of wellness; 80% of chronic disease would not occur if we simply attended to food and movement.

As a country, we’ve defeated rather stark enemies in the past. The greasiest, craviest clown shouldn’t evoke such a challenge.

Are we capable of taking the fork in the road or do we continue to stab ourselves three times daily with the fabled fork? We can do this.

Dr. Michael Eisen, M.D. lives in Harlingen.