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Here’s an odd question: Other than the obvious (terrorism, foreign countries, Covid-19), what else do you think constitutes a serious threat to our national security?

If you said “poor diet,” you’d be correct.

According to a formal report published Monday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diet-related illnesses are worsening health disparities and impacting national security. A group of experts who have formed the Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group found that unhealthy diets are the root cause of more than half a million American deaths each year!

“Stark national nutrition challenges were identified. More Americans are sick than are healthy, largely from rising diet-related illnesses. These conditions create tremendous strains on productivity, health care costs, health disparities, government budgets, US economic competitiveness, and military readiness. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has further laid bare these strains, including food insecurity, major diet-related comorbidities for poor outcomes from COVID-19 such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, and insufficient surveillance on and coordination of our food system,” the paper states.

In fact, about 46% of adults in the US have an overall poor diet. The number goes up to 56% for children, according to the report.

Because of this, US healthcare spending has nearly tripled from 6.9% to 17.7%, from 1979 to 2018. The advisory group said that these increases in health spending affect government budgets, the competitiveness of the US private sector, and workers’ wages.

The report suggests that diet-related health disparities majorly affect minority, rural and low-income communities, saying:

“While social and economic factors such as lower education, poverty, bias, and reduced opportunities are major contributors to population disparities, they are likewise major barriers to healthy food access and proper nutrition. Poor diets lead to a harsh cycle of lower academic achievement in school, lost productivity at work, increased chronic disease risk, increased out-of-pocket health costs, and poverty for the most vulnerable Americans.”

So where does the threat of national security come in?

Well, the paper warns that diet-related illnesses are harming US military readiness and the budgets of the US Department of Defense and the US Department of Veterans Affairs because 71% of people between the ages of 17 and 24 do not qualify for military service due to obesity. There are simply not enough people who qualify, medically speaking, to defend the country.

Co-authors Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University said, “Every day, our country suffers massive health, social, and economic costs of poor diets.”

In a statement, Mozaffarian called for a “major national effort to address current nutrition challenges, generating the critical science to rapidly treat and prevent diet-related diseases, improve health equity, increase population resilience to Covid-19 and future pandemics, and drive fundamental and translational discoveries for better lives.”

Whether we feel threatened or not, the truth of the matter remains that, as a country, we must take our health, and how we fuel our bodies more seriously. If not for us, for the safety of others. We need to do our part.

Stop eating garbage. Start eating the colors. No supplement can makeup for a lifetime of poor nutrition.

It is literally a matter of national security.