Mark Bittman has a opinion piece in today's New York Times that reminds us of the fiscal cost of poor diets in a country such as the United States.
For the first time in history, lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and others kill more people than communicable ones [in the US]. Treating these diseases — and futile attempts to “cure” them — costs a fortune, more than one-seventh of our GDP.
But they’re preventable, and you prevent them the same way you cause them: lifestyle. A sane diet, along with exercise, meditation and intangibles like love prevent and even reverse disease. A sane diet alone would save us hundreds of billions of dollars and maybe more.
Over time we have gone from providing more and better food to make us healthier, to providing more and more and not necessarily better food that undermines our health--the essence of Barry Popkin's Nutrition Transition theory. Changing our dietary patterns is unlikely to be easy.
Corny as it is to say so, if we can put a man on the moon we can create an environment in which an apple is a better and more accessible choice than a Pop-Tart. Some other billions of dollars must go to public health. Again: we built sewage systems; we built water supplies; we showed that we could get people to eat anything we marketed. Now all we have to do is build a food distribution system that favors real food, and market that.