, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 1-6

A Natural Diet Versus Modern Western Diets? A New Approach to Prevent “Well-Being Syndromes”

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Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in the Western world. Actually, 250 million adults are obese, and 500 million adults and 22 million children under 5 years of age are overweight. Obesity is a complex trait, depending upon interactions between multiple genes and the environment, but its recent rise and “epidemic proportions” are, above all, the consequences of dramatic changes in lifestyle, socioeconomic progress, and political and cultural trends. Eating behavior has strong extraphysiological determinants, being influenced by neuroendocrine, nutritional, environmental, and cognitive stimuli, able to modify the body weight set-point. Health care professionals should be concerned about obesity, because of the well-established relations between excess body weight and pathologies such as type II diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, dyslipidemia, and cancer, which afflict more and more people in the Western world—sort of “well-being syndromes.” An overview of modern Western diets—the American, Mediterranean, Atkins, and Zone diets—reveals the contradictions existing about the correct and healthy approach to human nutrition and suggests a “return to Nature.” From the actual artificial nutrition systems, based on cereals, milk, and their products, irrespective of our genome and metabolic attitudes, a simple diet based on natural food can be an ally in health maintenance and restoration.

Note: This revised version was published online in March 2005 with corrected author names.