In this day and age, most people look at our advances in the medical field and rejoice at our longevity. We see our life spans growing exponentially and throw much of our caution to wind for we have modern science on our side. But what if our increasing long lives were actually winding back? The CEO of the company WellSteps, Dr. Steven Aldana, gave some evidence in support of that statement in a free speech given in the Humanities’ Cashen Hall on Oct. 16.

With a mixed crowd of West Georgia students, teachers and interested patrons, Dr. Aldana started off the speech with some alarming facts. In 1985, the American map was placed into two colors with one group representing less than 10 percent of a state being obese and the other being 10-12 percent over weight. Then progress to 2010 and four more colors added to keep up with obesity changes, most of the country was 25-29 percent overweight. The south was leading the way with an average of 30 percent of the populace clinically obese. A corresponding map that dealt with life expectancy showed the same message with the south well below the average lifespan of 76 by 10 years. In the epicenter of this was Georgia.

But what may be the cause of the obesity problem? Most of the reasons given by Dr. Aldana were pretty recognizable. He listed off the most common three, which were lack of exercise, poor diet and the use of tobacco.

But one, very logical yet often unthought-of, point that seemed to have stuck with most of the audience was that these bodies we inhabit aren’t actually of this modern age. Depending on what you believe, we have the same bodies as our ancestors did 10,000- 100,000 years ago. Dr. Aldana made a major point out of this, discussing with the audience about the rarity of sugar, salt and oil in the our ancestor’s diet.  Our bodies know these are rare commodities. So when we eat these three in abundance, the pleasure center in our brain turns on, and we instantly begin to crave the foods containing the blend of sugar, salt and oil. In support to this, an experiment was done by a group of students in Connecticut College to see if high sugar and fat content in food had the same dependency as crack and other such drugs.

“Our research supports the theory that high-fat and high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” said Joseph Schroeder, the professor who led the study.

This isn’t an excuse or a sickness that had no cure; so to combat the obesity issue the answer given by Dr. Aldana was straightforward. We have to change our unhealthy behaviors and make the conscious effort to watch what we are doing with our bodies. The pay off for this change is very relevant. If a person didn’t choose to change and continue to grow ever fatter, the end of their life would statistically fall around 76. But the last few years would be met by slowly failing health. If that same would change their lifestyle for the better, they could add decades to their life. On top of that, the person who had changed their unhealthy habits would enjoy high quality living and not slow degradation until death.

Even with all this evidence, Dr. Aldana offered up a choice. You can add 10-20 years to your life with a healthy change, or you can lose all the years that modern science has given you and continue an unhealthy life. The choice will always be yours.

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