An apple a day equals $17 billion a year

Right now is the time of year when the most bountiful pickings from our local family farmers are ready for the table.  Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, corn, garlic, onions, greens and herbs of all varieties, potatoes, peaches, plums, pears, apples, blueberries, grapes, and more. The list of freshly harvested deliciousness goes on and on.

A trip to your local farmers’ market reveals a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables that scientists now believe to be nutritionally superior to supermarket fare shipped from afar. Did you know that when you alter your diet to include eating just one more serving of a fruit or vegetable –whether it comes from the produce section of your local supermarket or a local farmer—you would significantly improve your health? That single serving could also help to reduce health care costs for yourself and the rest of us.

Turns out that the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (or, as the Welsh would say,  “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread”) is true.

Our friends at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have produced an animated video that explains in simple terms the relationship between the foods you consume, your health, and the impact in real dollars on health care costs.

As advocates for public policy that reflects good science, UCS explains how the federal farm bill’s entrenched subsidies to farmers to grow corn and soybeans—used primarily in the production of junk food—end up making unhealthy junk food cheap and healthy fruits and vegetables expensive.  That intentional cost imbalance impacts everyone,as an obesity epidemic caused by junk-food consumption results in a host of preventable diseases whose treatments explode the cost of health care.

Watch the UCS video and you’ll learn that 725,000 people die each year in the U.S. from preventable health problems related to coronary heart disease and stroke. You’ll also learn that we collectively spend $94 billion treating those diseases.

And the projected number of friends and family whose lives could be saved each year if they’d consume just one more serving of fruits or vegetables? 30,000. What about the collective savings in health care costs?  $5 billion.  And what if everyone pushed themselves just a bit and ate 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily?  That change alone could prevent more than 127,000 premature deaths each year and save an astounding $17 billion in medical costs.