Media is flooded with tips and stories about what to eat and drink and how to stay healthy. The good examples are almost everywhere. This could lead to the conclusion that we live in the healthiest of worlds, but statistics speak a different language. In 2017, the Swedish Public Health Agency and the National Food Administration state in a report to the government that obesity among Swedes has increased by two hundred percent since 1980. Society’s costs for overweight and obesity are estimated in the same report at an astronomical SEK 70 billion per year. Lack of physical activity and a diet with too little vegetables, fruits, whole grains, vegetable oils, and seafood are contributing causes. The report also states that there is a big difference between different population groups and that health segregates. Particularly concerning is the fact that obesity is increasing among children. This is a development that affects us all and that we should do everything to break.
We know a great deal about the lifestyles that lead to health problems. For example, eating habits with highly processed foods, fast carbohydrates, and sweetened beverages make the blood sugar go up and down like a roller coaster. Then we tend to eat even more to keep our spirits up and cope with both the working day and the housework. Add too little exercise, stress, and lack of sleep, and the vicious circle is a fact. It makes me despair that so many are affected when reasonably simple lifestyle changes and increased knowledge about diet’s importance could make things so much better.
Today, there is a broad political consensus that we must fight lifestyle-related diseases through actions like better education and investments in health care, home economics, and physical exercise in schools. But change takes time, and much more needs to be done.
Imagine if we could make sure that the three million meals served daily in Swedish hospitals, schools, nursing homes, childcare centers, etc. were both tasty and healthy. In Sweden, we have a unique opportunity to make the public sector a “showcase” for good food with disease-preventing and healing properties. In addition to making the day much more pleasant for hospital patients, the elderly in nursing homes, and children at school, it would also have positive health effects in both the short and long term, when more people realize that tasty and healthy go in hand.
And imagine the day when we are finally free from the ongoing pandemic if the Public Health Agency could continue with its live reports. Now about the health situation in Sweden week by week. How many Swedes have suffered from type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, been forced to undergo obesity surgery, or died prematurely due to health problems that could have been prevented in various ways. Today we are advised to keep our distance, wash our hands, and stay at home if we are sick. These three simple disease prevention tips have, among other things, led to historically low levels of colds, winter vomiting disease, and the flu. In the future, they may be replaced, or at least supplemented with these three: Eat more fiber, move your body every day, and drink water with food.
What a fantastic result it could give!