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Oh Say Can You See? The Standard American Diet is Killing Me!

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

In recent decades, the United States has been facing a public health crisis of alarming proportions. While infectious diseases and epidemics have historically posed the most significant threats to our citizens, a new, silent killer has emerged as a leading cause of premature death among Americans: the Standard American Diet (SAD). Yes, so sad! The sedentary lifestyles of most Americans coupled with this diet, characterized by its high consumption of processed foods, grilled meats/cured meat, sugar, unhealthy fats, and low intake of nutritious foods, has been linked to a range of chronic diseases that significantly decrease life expectancy. In this blog, we'll explore the various ways in which the Standard American Diet is contributing to premature deaths and the steps we can take to reverse this deadly trend.

The Standard American Diet: Our Recipe for Disaster

One of the defining features of the Standard American Diet is its excessive sugar intake. Added sugars are prevalent in a wide range of processed foods and sugary beverages. These sugars not only contribute to obesity and diabetes, but also increase the risk of heart disease and negatively impact liver function. Processed foods, filled with artificial additives, preservatives, and trans fats, are equally concerning. These highly processed items often lack essential nutrients and can displace healthier food choices. Their impact on the gut microbiome can also lead to a host of health problems, further accelerating the decline in overall health and longevity. We also eat about three times the meat of most of the rest of the world.

  1. High in Saturated Fat: Red meat, especially processed and fatty cuts, is typically high in saturated fat. Consuming too much saturated fat can increase your risk of heart disease by raising levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which collects in our blood vessels in response to the damage we have inflicted upon ourselves. Most of our beef is grain-fed vs grass-fed, and is allowed to be treated with growth hormones and antibiotics, unlike beef produced in most of Europe, where governments have banned these production practices. There are legitimate concerns about the potential health effects of these substances when consumed in meat.

  2. Processed Meats and Sodium: Deli meats, such as ham, bacon, and sausages, are often processed and can contain high levels of sodium (salt). A high-sodium diet can contribute to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

  3. Nitrates and Nitrites: Processed meats are commonly preserved with nitrates and nitrites, which can form nitrosamines in the body. Nitrosamines are compounds that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.

  4. Heme Iron: Red meat contains heme iron, which may increase the risk of colon cancer. It is thought to promote the production of potentially harmful compounds in the gut.

  5. Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): High-temperature cooking methods, like grilling or frying red meat, can produce advanced glycation end products, which may be associated with chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The American Health Landscape

  • Obesity Epidemic

One of the most tragic consequences of the Standard American Diet is the obesity epidemic. The diet's high calorie content, coupled with a lack of nutrient-dense foods, has led to skyrocketing obesity rates in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 42% of American adults were considered obese in 2020. Obesity is a significant risk factor for a multitude of health issues, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. These conditions can lead to premature death and significantly reduce the quality of life for those affected.

  • Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over 600,000 lives annually. The SAD is a primary contributor to this epidemic. High consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, and excessive sodium intake, often found in processed and fast foods, raises blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation. Over time, these factors can lead to atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular complications. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help mitigate these risks, but such foods are often overshadowed by the allure of quick, highly processed, high-fat, and high-sugar options.

  • Type 2 Diabetes

The Standard American Diet, with its heavy reliance on refined carbohydrates and sugary foods, plays a significant role in the rising incidence of type 2 diabetes. Over 34 million Americans, roughly 10% of the population, suffer from this chronic disease. Uncontrolled diabetes can result in life-threatening complications, including heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness. Early intervention through dietary improvements can help manage and even prevent this disease, but the SAD perpetuates the cycle of poor health.

  • Cancer

Numerous studies have linked the SAD to an increased risk of cancer. A diet low in fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, along with high consumption of processed meats, has been associated with several types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and pancreatic cancer. By reducing the intake of red and processed meats and increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, individuals can lower their cancer risk and improve overall health.

  • Cognitive Decline

As we age, cognitive decline becomes a concern for many. The Standard American Diet may hasten this process. Diets high in trans fats, refined sugars, and processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Conversely, a diet rich in brain-boosting nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, can help protect and preserve cognitive function.

Breaking Free from the Standard American Diet

Changing dietary habits can be a daunting task, especially when the Standard American Diet is so deeply ingrained in our culture. However, the following steps can help individuals and society as a whole transition towards healthier eating habits:

  • Education: Raising awareness about the dangers of the SAD and the benefits of a balanced, primarily plant-based diet is crucial. Schools, healthcare providers, and the media can play a vital role in educating the public.

  • Policy changes: Governments and regulatory bodies can implement policies that promote healthier food choices, such as labeling requirements, subsidization of healthy foods, taxation of sugary and highly processed foods, and wellness dividends from health insurers.

  • Community initiatives: Encouraging community gardens, farmers' markets, and affordable access to fresh produce can make healthy options more accessible and affordable.

  • Personal responsibility: Individuals can take control of their health by making conscious choices to eat more whole, unprocessed foods and less fast food and sugary snacks.

  • Support systems: Building a support network and seeking professional guidance, such as nutritionists or dietitians, can help individuals make sustainable dietary changes.

The Need for a Paradigm Shift

It is evident that the Standard American Diet is a significant contributor to the premature death and decades of suboptimal living for countless Americans. To combat this dire situation, a shift towards a more balanced and healthful way of eating is essential. Here are some steps individuals can take to improve their dietary habits:

  1. Embrace Whole Foods: Focus on a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods are packed with essential nutrients and can promote overall well-being.

  2. Reduce Added Sugars: Minimize the consumption of sugary drinks, snacks, and desserts. Opt for natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup when necessary, and be mindful of sugar content in packaged foods.

  3. Limit Processed Foods: Cut back on processed foods, particularly those high in trans fats, artificial additives, and excessive sodium. Choose fresh, whole ingredients over convenience items.

  4. Portion Control: Be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. Many SAD-related health issues are exacerbated by excessive calorie intake.

  5. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water and reduce the consumption of sugary beverages. Water is essential for overall health and can help control appetite.

  6. Educate Yourself: Learn to read food labels and understand the nutritional content of the foods you consume. This knowledge empowers you to make informed choices.

  7. Seek Professional Guidance: If necessary, consult a registered dietitian or healthcare professional for personalized guidance and support in adopting a healthier diet.


The Global Burden of Disease Study, the largest study of risk factors for disease in history, concluded that the number one cause of premature death in the United States, and the number-one cause of disability, is the Standard American diet. The Standard American Diet's impact on the health and longevity of Americans cannot be overstated. It contributes to the growing rates of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline, ultimately leading to premature death.

The good news is that change is possible, and individuals, communities, and governments all have a role to play in reversing this deadly trend. By understanding the consequences of the SAD and actively working toward healthier dietary choices, we can extend our lives and improve our overall quality of life. By reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods, increasing the intake of fiber/nutrient-dense foods, and being mindful of sugar consumption, individuals can improve their health and reduce the risk of chronic illness.The path to a healthier future begins with an educated fork and knife, and the time to make these changes is now. Let's change the standards for the Standard American Diet to something that will help us not only survive, but thrive In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

At Fasting and Thriving Retreats we strive to bring you relevant information regarding a holistic approach to healthy living. A Fasting Lifestyle will help jump start your journey into health. Take this opportunity to learn more. For an individual, free assessment use the QR Code below and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

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