I place great effort in providing nutritional counselling to patients. This is done to equip patients with dietary knowledge that will enable them to improve their health outcomes. However, in an environment that is consumed with processed foods and food deserts that exist in many areas of our communities, healthy eating can be challenge. Food deserts are areas in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. In certain neighborhoods, it is popular to see gas stations that also serve lunch specials. Now for full disclosure, I have purchased one of these plate lunches and I can verify little choice of vegetables are offered. Well, what exactly is the big deal anyway about eating healthy? In a nutshell it has to do with chronic inflammation.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are a heterogeneous group of large particles that are formed by special proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. Here in the U.S. AGEs are prevalent in many of the processed and restaurant type foods many Americans eat. AGEs are formed when food is processed at elevated temperatures. Some examples are pasteurized dairy products, cheeses, sausages, and processed meats and commercial breakfast cereals.
High consumption of processed foods places many at risk for poor health. Evidence suggests that AGEs are important pathogenic mediators of almost all diabetes complications such diabetic neuropathy and atherosclerotic lesions. Diabetic neuropathy is associated with numbness, loss of sensation in arms and legs and atherosclerotic lesions play a significant role in the increase risk for stroke and heart attack. Unfortunately, many myths surround the idea of healthy eating. The biggest is cost. This myth is debunked when prices are calculated for items such as carrots, pinto beans, lettuce, bananas and orange juice are found to be less expensive per portion than soft drinks, ice cream, chocolate candy, French fries, sweet rolls and deep-fat fried chicken. Therefore, we must place better effort in healthy eating. I always suggest to patients. “if you don’t buy it you won’t eat it”.