Health Matters: Rethinking the long-term costs of your food and your health

By Tim Feldheim, MA, and Anghela Paredes, MS, RD
Medical Doctorate Candidates at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford

Times are tough, and everyone is trying to manage their daily expenses the best way they can. One of the first areas that may take a cut is a household’s food budget. Buying the cheaper, processed foods that can often be bought in bulk may seem like the answer to shoppers attempting to be frugal. In terms of convenience, one may be tempted to purchase meals from local fast-food restaurant drive-thrus, which offer quick and cheap meals on the go. One cannot turn on the TV without seeing the latest “cost-effective” deals from big chain restaurants like Domino’s, McDonald’s or KFC, that are too good to pass up. However, what most people do not take into full account is the potential long-term cost these processed and fast-food items have on our wallets.

It has been shown that unhealthy diets consisting mostly of processed and sugar-laden foods found in the grocery store and fast-food chains are harmful to the human body. It is well known that diets full of these food items can make one obese, and may contribute to the development of many diseases. One such disease is Type 2 diabetes, a disease where the body cannot adequately regulate sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, neuropathy, the inability to fight infections, shortened life expectancy, among other things. While the cost of diabetes on our bodies is fairly well known to the public, what many do not consider is the monetary toll of diabetes.

Diabetes will not only shorten one’s lifespan, but it can make one broke while doing it. According to statistics published by the American Diabetes Association, the average individual with diabetes is expected to have medical expenses of $13,700 a year. Individuals with diabetes usually have medical expenses 2.3 times higher than individuals not diagnosed with diabetes. According to another study published by the American Diabetes Association, individuals diagnosed with diabetes at age 40 will incur $211,400 on excess undiscounted medical costs in their lifetime. That amount of money would cover the cost of attendance for a four-year education at Northwestern University with about $30,000 extra to purchase a car.

It is important that we change our mindset on food and look at it as an investment. We, as a society, are willing to invest in our cars, clothes and home, but why not invest into something even more valuable — ourselves?

From the Dec. 3-9, 2014, issue

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