Mark Bittman’s new book, Animal, Vegetable, Junk, sheds light on why so many Americans, including young people, are falling victim to chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer. 

In relation to COVID-19, it is the increasingly routine consumption of junk food—highly-processed, filled with bad fats, sugar-laden, and laced with synthetic ingredients—that make so many of the elderly and those in poor health vulnerable to a viral trigger such as COVID-19 that magnifies and exacerbates underlying diet-related chronic diseases or co-morbidities. 

As Bittman explains:

“One of the most damning statistics is that close to 50% of the food that’s available is in the form of ultra-processed food. So ultra-processed food is what I call junk food… And it means food that contains non-food ingredients; food that your grandmother, great grandmother, maybe at this point wouldn’t have recognized as food. Food that you can’t cook yourself. Food that you don’t find in your own kitchen in the normal course of cooking and eating. A food that didn’t exist before the 20th century. It’s important to recognize that because ultra-processed food is cheap and it’s fast and it’s widely available; people without time and without money, are more likely to buy that kind of food. But everybody eats junk food. And it also poisons the environment for everybody.” 

Read the interview with Bittman in The Guardian