Why Modern Diets Are Lacking

Sep 18, 2017

Fitness Handout

Nutrition is a hot topic. It seems like every day there’s a claim about a miracle food or a wonder supplement. But how is the modern diet deficient? Why is it so poor in nutrients?

Kamal Patel, MPh, MBA, director of Examine.com and a nutrition researcher with an MPh and MBA from Johns Hopkins University, compares today’s diets with those of a hundred years ago.

Eating the Same Things

The food categories we eat now are much more homogenous. Wheat, corn and vegetable oils make up a huge portion of our diet. These foods (or food products, when it comes to high-fructose corn syrup, etc.) are rather low in vitamins and minerals and lack potentially beneficial phytochemicals found in other plants.

The Prevalence of Processed Foods

We also eat a lot more processed foods these days. The simple act of processing a food is not harmful. But when we grind certain foods down to a powder (like wheat flour) and make that a large portion of our diet, we take in a lot of “acellular carbohydrates” (Spreadbury 2012). (Plants and animals have cells, which contain water, but when we eat dried, powdered grains, a lot of acellular carbohydrate enters the gut all at once, which may predispose some people to health issues.)

Soil Is Less Mineral-Rich

The plants we eat (and the ones animals eat, which become our meat) grow in soil that’s less mineral-rich than it used to be (Davis, Epp & Riordan 2004). Moreover, roughly half of Americans may be drinking tap water that’s low in magnesium and/or calcium. This may be important, given the potential for high-mineral water to help protect against cardiovascular disease (Azoulay, Garzon & Eisenberg 2001).


Azoulay, A., Garzon, P., & Eisenberg, M.J. 2001. Comparison of the mineral content of tap water and bottled waters. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 16 (3), 168&ndash:75.

Davis, D.R., Epp, M.D., & Riordan, H.D. 2004. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23 (6), 669&ndash:82.

Lindeberg, S., et al. 1997. Age relations of cardiovascular risk factors in a traditional Melanesian society: The Kitava study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66 (4), 845&ndash:52.

Spreadbury, I. 2012. Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity, 5, 175&ndash:89.

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