By Sean Lanigan
For many years now, I have been fascinated with diet and nutrition, spending time researching calorie consumption from plant sources, processed foods, and animal products. My healthy hobby led me to a book with an interesting title, “Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It.”
The 2017 book was written by a well-known nutritionist, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, along with Robert B. Phillips and talks about the damage that fast food and processed foods can do to people. I always knew how food could impact my physical health, but other things in this book stood out to me, mainly the damage that processed food can do to a person’s long-term mental and emotional health.
While many facts stood out to me in this book, here are my top three takeaways to share with my fellow students. I will also share the page numbers if you want to read for yourself.
The first thing that stood out is how much healthy nutrition can positively impact both prisons and schools. For many years there have been programs in place for prisoners to raise their own organic fruits and vegetables in places like California, Washington, and Pennsylvania. (page 145.) Early studies of these gardening programs in the state of California show that fewer than ten percent of the inmates return to prison, way below the average national rate of sixty percent. (page 145.)
Thinking about a fifty percent difference in the reoffend rate is fascinating to me. Another study was done at Appleton Central Alternative High School, a school that opened in 1996, and was considered to be for at risk students. (page 147) The food the students used to eat there included sodas, candy bars, and chips. (Page 147). After the school decided to implement a nutrition and wellness program, the changes were amazing. (page 147). The Principal of the school reported that negative behaviors, vandalism, drug use, dropping out, and expulsions basically ceased to exist. (Page 148).
The second surprising fact I learned is that proper nutrition is linked to better social interactions and behavior. (page 134). Dr. Mark Wilson, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Emory University School of Medicine, used a study that involved monkeys. The monkeys who ate healthier food spent a lot more time socializing. (Page 134) The monkeys who ate the junk food didn’t socialize as much, and they stayed isolated. (Page 135)
The third surprising fact I learned is that people who eat fast food and junk food all the time just because they feel healthy every day doesn’t mean that they are. (Page 267) Damage still accumulates over the years, and it almost always catches up with us, resulting in serious disease in midlife or later. (Page 267)
I think it is important for students to read this book. I don’t want to seem preachy, because I have my days where I don’t eat perfect and overeat. I know firsthand that managing weight and maintaining healthy eating habits can be very difficult. For many years, I told people I always wanted to go to school for broadcasting, and my family and friends told me for years that I should. My confidence actually increased as my food choices improved. I felt better overall, went back to school, and am so happy that I did. My energy and work ethic have never been better.
Click to purchase the book.