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We are indeed much more than we eat but what we eat nevertheless helps us to be much more than we are A century ago our ancestors feared infectious and communicable diseases such as smallpox -- diseases that claimed many childrens lives and limited the average life expectancy of adults Today far fewer infectious diseases threaten us thanks to medical sciences ability to identify disease-causing microorganisms and develop vaccines In developed nations purification of water prevents the spread of infections and immunizations protect individuals Most people live well into their later years and todays average life expectancy far exceeds that of our ancestors Whitney pp646 As the 20th century draws to a close medical sciences concerns differ significantly from those of earlier years According to the Background on Adult Nutrition from the FamilyHaven site prior to World War II Americans main nutritional problems stemmed from lack of sufficient food or variety of foods Nutrition scientists of that era focused on defining essential nutrients primarily vitamins in order to outline the minimum food intake for good health Diet has always played a vital role in supporting health Today over consumption of foods -- especially those high in fat -- is a major concern for people in the United States When we look at the ten leading causes of illness and death in the United States the top categories are heart disease cancer stroke and diabetes Diet influences the development of the chronic diseases Taken together these four diseases account for about two-thirds of the nations 2 million deaths each year FamilyHaven Food choices pp15 These causes are stated as if single conditions such as heart disease caused death but most chronic diseases arise from multiple factors over many years A person who died from heart failure may have had preexisting conditions such as obesity and high blood pressure may have been a cigarette smoker may have spent years eating a high-fat diet and getting too
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