A week’s worth of food: A life and death matter

Photographer Peter Menzel went around the world and visited households to see what a week’s worth of food looked like for the average family. Let’s start here in America.


Now, using that as a baseline, here’s a week in Italy.


I don’t think its going out on a limb to say the American diet really sucks. Tons of packaged and processed food. I feel my cholesterol levels rising and my blood pressure rocketing just looking at a U.S. table that’s accentuated by Burger King, Dominos and McDonalds. When I came back to the states after seven years in Europe, the overwhelming portions of fat and grease at the average restaurant literally made me sick. As in throwing up in the toilet sick. The only thing I can handle at a McDonalds these days is the Happy Meal: a cheeseburger, a half portion of fries, a small drink and a small package of apple slices. Can’t forget the toy.

And I’m not surprised when I look up the life expectancy for the two countries. Turns out Italy ranks 10th in the world at 81.95 years, according to the Web site geoba.se.

The United States comes in at No. 53, with an expectancy of 78.62.

Before we go, let’s take a look at a week’s worth of food in one more country: Chad.


I figure the life expectancy here is going to be pretty bad, and geoba.se confirms that. Life expectancy in Chad is 49.07 years. Dead last at No. 228 on the planet. If I lived in Chad, I would have been dead for the past nine years.

The contrast between the three countries, and what we put in our mouths, should give Americans pause. The U.S. is the richest country in the world, and we’re dying because we eat crap. Chad is the poorest country in the world, and its citizens are dying because they’re starving. This is shameful.

For more photos from around the world, go to this link at Nutrition News. For the life expectancy figures, check out this link at geoba.se.


We’re No. 2!

The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch ranks the “10 Most Unhappy States in the U.S.” based on a Gallup Poll, and it puts this state at No. 2:

Well-being index score: 62.7

Life expectancy: 76.2 years (7th lowest)

Obesity: 29.7% (6th highest)

Median household income: $41,141 (4th lowest)

Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 83.1% (6th lowest)

The state has one of the lowest proportions of adults with a high-school diploma, as well as the fourth-lowest median income in the country. Kentucky also ranked dead-last in terms of healthy behaviors. A mere 60.7% of respondents said they ate healthily the day before, by far the lowest of any state. Not surprisingly, Kentucky also ranked second from the bottom in terms of physical health. As many as 29% of people indicated they had health problems that prevented them from doing age-appropriate activities, a higher percentage than any state other than West Virginia. Kentucky also ranked second from the bottom in the life evaluation and emotional health categories.

As a homeowner in Kentucky, the only thing I can say is “Thank God for West Virginia.”

1. West Virginia

Well-being index score: 61.3

Life expectancy: 75.2 years (2nd lowest)

Obesity: 33.5% (the highest)

Median household income: $38,482 (2nd lowest)

Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.2% (12th lowest)

West Virginia residents’ well-being was the worst of all states. It scored last in three of the six categories: life evaluation, emotional health and physical health. The answers of West Virginians to questions in the physical health category were particularly alarming. It was the only state where more than 30% of residents were told that they had high cholesterol. In addition, nearly 40% of respondents were told they have high blood pressure, also the highest of all states. Some 31.4% of respondents indicated that they smoked, the highest percentage of all states. The state had the second-lowest median income in the U.S., and a very high proportion reported not being able to afford food or medicine. West Virginians had the second-worst life expectancy at birth in the country.

The other “winners” are:

3: Mississippi (how can we be worse than Mississippi?)
4: Tennessee
5: Arkansas
6: Alabama
7: Ohio
8: Louisiana
9: Indiana
10: Oklahoma (it’s not OK)

Let’s see, what do nine of these 10 states have in common?


Ohio didn’t join the list of Red States in the 2012 presidential election, but it has a Republican governor and a GOP controlled legislature. The link between misery and the GOP remains consistent.

No wonder I feel so crowded: 7 billion and counting

You’ve seen the reports. The world’s population is supposed to hit 7 billion in a matter of hours. More precisely, it’s supposed to happen on Halloween. Here’s an explanation from PBS and ITN:

The BBC has a pretty cool population calculator that will tell you where you fit in the world’s population when you insert your birth date.

I put mine in. Here’s the result:

When you were born, you were the: 2,765,620,117th person alive on Earth

76,161,251,498th person to have lived since history began

So since I was born, another 4 billion or so people showed up. Here’s the link to the BBC calculator.

The calculator also tells you (among other things) how many people are in your country (with the count updating while you’re on the site), the life expectancy in your country and how much the world population has grown since you’ve been on the site (I wasn’t on very long, and 3,400 people showed up).

It reminds me of the old saying: In China, when you’re told you’re one in a million, that means there are 1,000 people exactly like you.

(Actually, according to the BBC site, there are 1,343 exactly like you.)

Aging, but not gracefully

In an unexpected population development, the life expectancy for women is declining in certain parts of the U.S. We’re in a developed country. This isn’t supposed to happen.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that:

Women in large swaths of the U.S. are dying younger than they were a generation ago, reversing nearly a century of progress in public health and underscoring the rising toll of smoking and record obesity.

Nationwide, life expectancy for American men and women has risen over the last two decades, and some U.S. communities still boast life expectancies as long as any in the world, according to newly released data. But over the last decade, the nation has experienced a widening gap between the most and least healthy places to live. In some parts of the United States, men and women are dying younger on average than their counterparts in nations such as Syria, Panama and Vietnam.

Overall, the United States is falling further behind other industrialized nations, many of which have also made greater strides in cutting child mortality and reducing preventable deaths.

Let’s put on our partisan hats, shall we?

If you were betting your underwater mortgage on where the trend is most noticeable, in which region of the country would you say this is happening?

Time to bring in the map.

Seriously, was the answer that hard to figure out?

And you see those three New York counties that had the biggest improvement in life expectancy? They’re the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, otherwise known as New York City.

It gets tougher every day living in “Real America.”