If the American diet was in school, it would receive a report card full of failing grades. A white paper published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by the Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group has warned that poor health linked to lousy eating is a major burden on the U.S. economy, contributing to skyrocketing healthcare spending and low workplace productivity. It also exacerbates health disparities among minority, rural and low-income individuals compared with other groups and can even have a negative impact on academic achievement and national security by harming the readiness of U.S. military personnel.

The report says more Americans are unhealthy than healthy, largely owing to a rising tide of diet-associated illnesses, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to elevate diet-related burdens. About 46% of U.S. adults and 56% of children eat a poor diet overall. Sadly, those statistics are not surprising, given that at least 36% of children consumed fast food on any given day from 2015 to 2018, according to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Helpings of fast food can contribute an alarming percentage of daily calories.

The report’s authors called for the expansion of federal investment in nutrition research by creating a new Office of the National Director of Food and Nutrition and by conducting more nutrition research within the National Institutes of Health through the creation of a new National Institute of Nutrition. The end goal is to lessen the gigantic health, social and economic costs of Americans’ poor diet.

Why do you think so many Americans struggle to eat well? Are people aware of just how dire the situation has become? How many of your clients eat poorly? What type of national effort do you believe is required to turn around our dietary habits? Will increasing government budgets for nutrition-related science make a noticeable impact?

Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

See also: Americans Are Still Eating a Lousy Diet