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What Are The Global Impacts of The Western Diet On Health?

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What Are The Global Impacts of The Western Diet On Health?

The consequences of the Western diet are profound, encompassing not only physical health issues but also mental health concerns. Its highly palatable but nutritionally deficient foods can trigger addictive-like behaviors, leading to long-term changes in brain function

As we grapple with the challenges posed by this diet, it becomes increasingly essential to promote balanced, whole-food-based nutrition to mitigate the detrimental effects of the Western diet on our well-being and longevity. This article will deliberate the implications of this diet and provide insights into healthier ways of eating along with integrative ways to boost your nutritional status.


The Western Diet Explained

The Western diet is characterized by a combination of nutritional choices that have significant health implications. This diet is marked by four key components: high consumption of processed foods, excessive intake of red meat, sugary beverages and sweets, and low intake of fruits and vegetables. 

The Western diet is inundated with pre-packaged, heavily processed foods that are often loaded with additives, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. These convenient but nutritionally deficient options contribute to a range of health issues. Red meat, particularly when consumed in large quantities, as seen in this diet, is associated with elevated levels of saturated fats, which can lead to cardiovascular problems and other metabolic disorders. 

The Western diet also includes copious amounts of sugary drinks and sweets, contributing to the alarming rise in obesity, diabetes, and dental issues. In contrast to the balanced diets recommended for optimal health, the Western diet often lacks sufficient fruits and vegetables, depriving the body of essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Historically, the Western diet has evolved in response to the rapid changes in food production and processing, which occurred too swiftly for our genetic makeup to adapt. Before the advent of agriculture, humans consumed minimally processed, natural foods. However, the introduction of agriculture and industrialization brought about a shift towards processed, nutrient-poor foods that are now ubiquitous in the Western diet.

Western Diet Health Impacts

The Western diet has emerged as a major contributor to a global health crisis, with dire consequences on various aspects of well-being. Obesity has reached alarming rates. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that in 2016, almost two billion adults were overweight, and a staggering 650 million were classified as obese. 

Chronic illnesses connected to obesity, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, have risen to become leading causes of death, costing an estimated $147 billion in medical expenses in 2008 alone. The Western diet, characterized by its high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, plays a pivotal role in this crisis. Despite growing awareness of the importance of healthy eating, the consumption of foods rich in fat and sugar remains a significant component of this diet, fueling the obesity epidemic.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are also on the list of negative health impacts caused by the Western diet. Saturated fats and trans fats contribute to the development of heart diseases. Over 64 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular diseases. Hypertension further exacerbates this issue, as it’s a major risk factor for CVD. Hypertension affects 50 million Americans and significantly impacts public health costs.

Type 2 diabetes is another concern of the Western diet and is closely linked to high sugar intake. That high sugar intake creates pro-inflammatory substances that induce oxidative stress, causing health issues such as type 2 diabetes. The United States alone harbors 11 million individuals with this condition, which affects over 8% of the world population and continues to increase, making this a world epidemic. These statistics underscore the profound health implications of the Western diet on metabolic disorders.

Moreover, cancer is heavily influenced by dietary habits, with a third of cancer deaths attributed to poor nutrition and obesity. The Western diet, marked by processed foods and low fruit and vegetable consumption, is a significant factor in cancer’s prevalence, making it the second leading cause of death in the United States.

How Can Functional Medicine Labs Be Used To Test Your Nutritional Status?

Functional medicine labs are excellent clinical tools to assess nutritional status, provide guidance on personal dietary plans, and help monitor the effectiveness of targeted nutrition interventions. Here are some labs that are often used by practitioners to investigate the nutritional status of individuals:

Micronutrient Panel

One of the most effective ways to discover your nutritional status is through a micronutrient panel. This micronutrient test measures over 40 different types of nutrients needed for optimal health and function, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and antioxidants.


The NutrEval FMV test analyzes markers of dietary insufficiencies and nutrient imbalances. This panel is great for assessing underlying factors linked with chronic conditions such as metabolic syndrome and other diet-related diseases.

Organic Acids Test (OAT)

The OAT provides a comprehensive analysis of metabolic health. It analyzes biomarkers associated with vitamins, minerals, and oxidative stress levels. It can help detect metabolic dysfunction and imbalances that hinder cellular function.


The GI-MAP is a comprehensive stool analysis that provides information on overall gut health and function. It can give insights into digestion, inflammation, and other indicators that impact nutrient absorption.


What Are Some Healthier Diets?

With the many negative health consequences of the Western diet, nutrient-rich diet alternatives are needed to counteract these impacts. Here are some healthier diet choices to consider:

Elimination Diet

Elimination diets offer a helpful starting point to identify foods that may not agree with your body and overall well-being. These diets center on the removal of potentially troublesome foods. During the diet, you temporarily exclude one or more suspect foods for a few weeks. 

Throughout this period, maintain a journal to record your reactions to these foods. The goal is to uncover underlying sensitivities, inflammatory foods, and any substances that might upset your digestive system and immune response. Gradually, you’ll reintegrate these foods into your diet, monitoring their effects on your body.

Plant-Based Diets

Plant-based diets are just that: diets rich and plentiful in plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. At the same time, minimizing or excluding animal products such as red meat, fish, and dairy. This diet is high in fiber and nutrients and is helpful in reducing the risk of CVD, diabetes, and cancer, along with improving neurological health.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting involves regular periods of not eating within a set schedule. Research found that this dietary approach effectively lowers fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, insulin levels, insulin resistance, body mass index, waist size, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. These findings highlight the positive impact of intermittent fasting on individuals with metabolic syndrome.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a proven nutritional plan inspired by the diets of the Mediterranean region. It prioritizes whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil. These foods provide fiber, good fats, and antioxidants. Following the Mediterranean diet can help control blood sugar, lower heart disease risk, and manage weight effectively.

Supplements & Herbs That Can Be Added to a Healthy Diet

Many supplements and herbs can be combined with a balanced diet to improve health. 


Fiber is needed to help with balancing glucose levels, improving digestion, appetite control, and modulating weight. It is recommended to take anywhere between 19 grams and 38 grams per day, depending on age.


Probiotics are microbes that are beneficial for balancing the microbiome and improving gut health and overall health. It can help with digestion, decreasing inflammation, and enhancing metabolic processes.


CoQ10 is a fat-soluble known for its high antioxidant capacity. It’s effective at improving conditions such as diabetes and CVD. Supplementation with this nutrient can decrease oxidative stress levels, improving overall metabolic health.

Vitamin D

Many people are deficient in this nutrient, and deficiencies can lead to metabolic issues such as diabetes and CVD. Vitamin D is a vital prohormone fat-soluble vitamin that is needed for many physiological processes like gene regulation.

Omega 3s

Omega 3’s are considered a super nutrient known for their anti-inflammatory properties. It can also be indicated in improving health conditions such as CVD, arthritis, and cognitive impairment. Over half of Americans don’t consume enough of this fatty acid, and supplementation should be considered as part of a healthy nutritional plan.


Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum/lingzhi) is a medicinal mushroom known for its many health benefits. It is considered anti-cancerous, anti-hypertensive, and antioxidant. It can protect the liver and modulate the immune system. Incorporating this into a dietary plan can help improve overall health outcomes.



The Western diet’s departure from our ancestral nutritional model has led to a host of health challenges, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It is imperative to address this dietary crisis and promote healthier eating patterns to combat these dire health consequences. 

There are plenty of other healthy choices that can be made to improve overall health, reduce disease risk, and enhance quality of life. Dietary changes such as incorporating a Mediterranean diet and adding in supplements such as Vitamin D and Reishi mushrooms can make all the difference in your metabolic health. As always, consult with your healthcare provider before adding or adjusting your health choices.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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