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A New Political Platform: Better Nutrition for all Americans?

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Soda consumption, a contributor to obesity and diabetes in the U.S., fell to a 31-year low in 2016, according to Beverage Digest. But sugars and refined starches still make up much of the American diet. (Free-photos/Pixabay)
Soda consumption, a contributor to obesity and diabetes in the U.S., fell to a 31-year low in 2016, according to Beverage Digest. But sugars and refined starches still make up much of the American diet. (Free-photos/Pixabay)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
November 15, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic candidates running for president in 2020 have multiple ideas about how to fix the nation's health-care system, but one cardiologist says they should also be addressing what's making people sick.

Cardiologist and Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University Dariush Mozzaffarian says 50 years ago, when the population was exploding, the goal was to reduce hunger, so food was designed to contain as many calories as possible.

For most people today, hunger is no longer an issue, but he says many continue to eat in quantities that lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

"I would like to see the Democratic candidates have a platform around food,” says Mozzaffarian. “It's the number one cause of poor health, it's the number one issue for sustainability. You know we have childhood obesity, it's a huge issue for the economy, and nobody's talking about it."

Reports show Iowa is among the top 10 states with the nation's highest adult obesity rates, and nationwide, three in four adults are overweight or obese. Mozaffarian says if the nation wants to reduce disease and its costs, meaningful health-care reform is critical and should be a nonpartisan priority.

Mozaffarian has joined a Silicon Valley investor and a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration leader to build momentum on Capitol Hill to put more federal money into nutrition. He believes it would benefit the economy, creating new jobs around healthy food that could be exported to the rest of the world.

He says right now, nutrition research is fragmented and too many people don't know what to eat.

"We recently published a paper and 42% of calories in the U.S. food supply are poor quality carbohydrates,” says Mozzaffarian. “So, think about that – almost half of the calories in the U.S. food supply come from refined starch and sugar."

The U.S. spends more money on health care than any other country in the world. Mozaffarian notes that people with lower incomes often have the worst diets – which creates a cycle of poor health, lost productivity, increased health costs and poverty.

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