While a proper diet can nourish the individual, a poor diet can sap an individual of energy and cause significant health problems. Unfortunately, with the wide availability of fast and processed foods, it is easy for Americans to fall into the trap of eating an unhealthy diet. A diet fails to meet an individual’s dietary needs when it is too high in calorie or too low in important nutrients that the body needs to function. The detriments of unhealthy eating on health are well established. When individuals maintain unhealthy eating habits, their poor diet can lead to chronic health problems by contributing to obesity, decreasing their intake of nutrients, and negatively impacting their mental health.
The foods that individuals consume have an important effect on their ability to maintain a healthy weight. A diet that contains excessive calories is often contributed to weight gain that can lead to further health complications. By evaluating the negative impacts of fast food on an individual, researchers are able to demonstrate how high-calorie diets cause an individual to become obese. As Agnieszka et al. note, a typical fast food meal contains twice the calories than a typical home-prepared meal (Agnieszka et al. 312). Further, the researchers note that the caloric intake of teenagers who ate fast food at least three times a week was up to 40 percent higher than the intake of those who did not eat fast food as often (312). An additional study of African American women between the ages of thirty and sixty-nine years of age demonstrated that women who consumed fast food items at least once per week had higher calorie intakes than individuals who did not consume fast food at all (312). As the research demonstrates, there is a positive correlation between fast food consumption and the number of calories that an individual consumes.
Next, the researchers make the connection between a high-calorie diet and obesity. As research demonstrates, individuals who consume fast food at least two times per week have a 30 percent higher occurrence of accumulating excess fat in the abdominal area (313). This is because an increase in caloric intake of 17 kilocalories per day has been demonstrated to produce weight gain of 1 kilogram per year (313). Further, the research demonstrated that women who consumed fast food were 15 percent less likely to maintain a healthy body mass index (313). As the findings highlight, the high caloric content of fast food menu items is the most significant variable accounts for the weight gain produced by fast food consumption (313). Though, this research focuses on the detrimental impact of fast food, it holds implications for any poor diet that is high in calories.
Another component of a poor diet is that it is often high in calories, yet low in the nutrients that an individual needs to maintain his or her body. In their research, Huth et al. analyze health data to determine the impact that calories, added sugars, and saturated fats have on nutrient intake. Focusing on general eating habits in the United States, the researchers determine that the average American consumers 2,176 kilocalories per day, yet their top food sources include food items such as cookies, bread, soft drinks, beef, poultry, sugary foods, and alcoholic beverage (Huth et al. 3). As the researchers note, soft drinks, sodas, and sugary foods top the list of foods consumed by Americans yet lack any useful nutrients (5). Further, the standard American diet lacks calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 (8). As the research demonstrates, a diet that is lacking in useful nutrients provides individuals with excess calories yet leaves individuals with a deficiency in nutrients. As the old adage goes, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away".
Along with compromising an individual’s physical health, an insufficient diet undermines an individual’s mental health. Analyzing past research on the connection between diet and mental health, medical doctor Dog Low establishes that proper nutrition could have positive effects on mental health. For example, studies demonstrate that increasing omega-3 fatty acids in the diet reduced symptoms of depression (Low 46). Further, Low determined that refined and sweetened foods that increase blood sugar and insulin have a negative impact on mood and cognition (46). Additionally, caffeine was reported to increase anxiety in individuals with anxiety disorders and increase the prevalence of panic attacks (47). Further, iron deficiencies have been established to alter neurotransmitters in the brain, which can cause poor concentration and symptoms of depression (48). Because the health of the brain plays a vital role in an individual’s overall health, the mental health problems created by poor nutrition can have an extensive impact on an individual’s quality of life.
As researches noted, fast food and processed food are widely consumed by Americans yet undermine the well being of an individual. The availability of foods that are high in unnecessary calories or low in essential nutrients creates an imbalance that can lead to chronic health problems. Consuming foods that are high in calories can cause uncontrollable weight gain and obesity. Additionally, the consumption of foods with few nutrients can come at the expense of consuming valuable nutrients that the body needs to properly function. Further, an imbalanced diet can deprive individuals of the nutrients that their brain needs to function properly and ward off imbalances that lead to mental illness. In consideration of these detriments that are caused by unhealthy eating, it can be established that a poor diet is a direct cause of poor health in the individual.
Huth, Peter J., Victor L. Fulgoni III, Debra R Keast, Keigan Park, and Nancy Auestad. “Major Food Sources of Calories, Added Sugars, and Saturated Fat and their Contribution to Essential Nutrient Intakes in the U.S. Diet: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2003-2006).” Nutrition Journal 12.1 (2013): 1-10. Academic Search Premier.
Jaworowska, Agnieszka, Toni Blackham, Ian G. Davies, and Leonard Stevenson. “Nutritional Challenges and Health Implications of Takeaway and Fast Food.” Nutrition Review 71.5 (2013): 310-318. Academic Search Premier.
Low, Dog. “The Role of Nutrition in Mental Health.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 16.2 (2010): 42-6. ProQuest.