Studies: The Western Diet has resulted in more unhealthy people and a ‘fertility crisis’

Turns out exclusively eating garbage is bad for your body. 

The Western Diet has been taking a beating from flash in the pan fads like the South Beach diet and celebrated mainstays like the Mediterranean diet for decades now. It’s the worst in virtually every way; its program is defined as follows: High intake of red meat (increased risk of heart disease), high intake of processed meats (increase risk for stomach and bowel cancer), high intake of fried foods, (increase risk for type 2 diabetes), high intake of butter (increased risk for obesity), high intake of sugary drinks (increase risk for early death), and high intake of eggs and dairy products (those are actually mostly okay). In many ways, the Western Diet is a perversion of the diet that enabled the early peoples to sustain energy throughout a day composed of vigorous activity. Therein lies the problem. 

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According to a national statistic report published by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention just last year, only 22.9% of US adults between the ages of 18 and 64 met government guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises between 2010 and 2015. These guidelines recommend adults get moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week, or “vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 75 minutes per week. The calorie heavy diet, without the adequate degree of exercise to justify it, led to America ranking 35 on the list of healthiest countries in 2019, while the majority of countries that made the Top 10 have adopted fiber-rich Mediterranean diets. As of 2016, 71% of US adults over 20 are overweight, and nearly 40% of U.S. adults over 20 are obese. 

The non-linear evolution of the microbe

It’s not strictly a matter of calorie intake. The lack of important nutrients and fibers are also hindering our development, or derailing our evolution as author and contributing writer for the New York Times, Moises Velasquez-Manoff, sharply summarized a few years back. 

Manoff’s summation was energized by a team of researchers dedicated to identifying the origin of diet-induced microbe extinction. Through various reports, microbiologist Justin Sonnenburg and his team have detailed how a refined Western Diet has altered our ancestral microbe, thus raising our risks for an array of chronic illnesses. In one experiment, Sonnenburg applied a similar regimen as the Western Diet to a crop of mice in order to better determine the effects of the diet as it relates to microbe diversity. On the fiber-less, high sugar diet, the mice were more aggressive and more difficult to handle and their pups were unable to obtain the full endowment of their mother’s microbes. While the first generation of mice was able to recover their diverse microbes after being put on a proper diet, the second generation of mice could not correct what they never inherited in the first place. Manoff reports:

“What the Sonnenburgs’ experiment suggests is that by failing to adequately nourish key microbes, the Western Diet may also be starving them out of existence. They call this idea “starving the microbial self.” They suspect that these diet-driven extinctions may have fueled, at least in part, the recent rise of non-communicable diseases.”

The “fertility crisis”

A new study conducted by a team of Danish and US researchers from Harvard University, motions that strict adherence to the Western Diet was additionally associated with lower sperm count, even in otherwise fit young men. Many of the men observed in the report were biologically in their reproductive peak, in spite of this, they were observed to have a clinically low count, which is defined by a count that falls below 15 million sperm per milliliter and 39 million sperm per ejaculation. A person with a lower count with invariably has a more difficult time conceiving a child naturally. 

Researchers behind the study noted a trend in declining potency, calling it the “fertility crisis.” The average sperm count has been dwindling since the 1970s. In the study of 3,000 men, the ones that adhered to a Western Diet expressed the lowest sperm concentration volume and motility. These participants evidenced sperm counts between 8.86 million and 42.3 million lower than men that ate a greater abundance of fish, chicken, vegetables, and fruit. The researchers explain, “Our findings support the growing evidence that adhering to generally healthy diet patterns, including local variations, is associated with higher sperm counts and more favorable markers of sperm function,”

The finds were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’s (ESHRE) annual meeting in Vienna this past Tuesday and has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.