What Does the United States Offer Immigrants?

By W. Gifford-Jones, M.D.
Created: July 18, 2012 Last Updated: August 10, 2012
Related articles: Health » Nutrition
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Fast food in America is cheap, fast, and convenient, yet it is costing many of us our health. (Cat Rooney/The Epoch Times)

Fast food in America is cheap, fast, and convenient, yet it is costing many of us our health. (Cat Rooney/The Epoch Times)

For years, citizens of the United States have enthusiastically welcomed millions of immigrants to their country. But what do they offer them as they sail or fly past the Statue of Liberty? They claim their country provides life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

But what do immigrants actually receive after arrival in the United States? And would it have been wiser for them to stay in their own countries?

Researchers at Ohio University studied 24 men and women who moved to the United States from countries all over the world. They discovered that after 10 weeks, the new residents had already gained two pounds each. Then, after 20 weeks, they had put on another pound. But this was only the average weight gain.

One male immigrant from Colombia had gained 29 pounds, and a woman from Italy had added 12. But Ms. Chen, the lead researcher, reported that the results could have been worse. Some of the immigrants, realizing what was happening, decided to start dieting during the study.

Why had this occurred? Chen decided the main culprit was fast food. But other countries also have fast food outlets, so it wasn’t simply the convenience of fast food that set the stage for obesity.

The culprit was cheap fast food. Compared to the rest of the world, U.S. fast food is less expensive than in any other country. Immigrants must spend several dollars for a burger in their native country but as little as $1.50 in the United States.

I might think this is as close to nirvana as anyone can get. “Why did I stay in my homeland for so many years? They’re right. This is indeed the land of opportunity.”

This is not the first study to show that people from other cultures quickly catch up to U.S. citizens when exposed to cheap, super-sized, calorie-dense food. And since an expanding waistline can happen to immigrants in mere weeks, it’s obvious what must occur during a lifetime.

If I were an unsuspecting immigrant to the United States, I’d most likely say: “Wow, what a super country when I can eat hamburgers for just $1.50! It’s even better when my family can go to some restaurants and eat all they want for a single price.”

But life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness would only last so long.

Immigrants eventually begin to see they are paying a high price for cheap, fast food. Slowly but surely, they are becoming overweight and finally so obese that they can no longer see their feet.

Parents also see what is happening to their children. They too are part of the American way of life, with too many hours spent watching mindless TV, too little exercise, and adult diseases that develop in childhood, all a part of a faulty, tragic lifestyle.

For instance, a recent California study revealed 37 percent of Latino children had increased blood cholesterol, and 14 percent had hypertension. Another study showed 11 percent of adolescents with thickening of the carotid arteries due to atherosclerosis, not previously seen at this age. Moreover, if carotid arteries are becoming blocked, so are coronary vessels.

Unfortunately, like their fellow Americans, immigrants learn there is more to ill health than obesity. This single problem leads to diabetes, which in turn leads to hypertension, blindness, kidney failure, amputation of legs, or coronary death.

So the greener U. S. pastures would eventually be not so green after all. They become citizens of a country that spends vast sums on health care with little to show for it.

Before it is too late they might be wise to say, “Forget about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Why wasn’t the United States honest enough to tell us we were about to descend into medical hell as soon our family members raised their hands and swore allegiance to the United States of America? Our children may die before us. We should have stayed home and lived longer.”

Dr. Gifford-Jones is a medical journalist with a private medical practice in Toronto. His website is He may be contacted at

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