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The science of nutrition

September 20, 2016

So there is a lot of information out there about how nutrition effects our health, some good, some bad, some based in science and research and some very much not. At the basic level the food we eat gives our bodies the information and materials we need to function properly.  So if we give our body too much we become overweight, too little of a certain vitamin we develop a deficiency or if we send the wrong signals over an extended amount of time we can develop medical conditions. Now I think it is fair to say that most of us out there, including myself, assess what we eat with regards to the effect it has on our waistline.  Now a healthy diet and a healthy weight can be very well combined and actually most of the time lead to the same dietary advice.  However, we have seen over the years a lot of quick fix and short term diets which have very severe restrictions which we recognize are not the best long term solutions.  There is however some "lifestyle" changes that represent more long-term diet changes such as an alkaline diet or a low carbohydrate diet that may lead us to our goal weight but with little information on the long-term effects on our health. 

 

With so much information out there it is hard to make good informed choices and know both the pros and cons of what we eat and our lifestyle choices. Many of today’s most challenging, costly, and debilitating conditions, including a variety of age-related diseases, are being linked to poor dietary and lifestyle habits. One nutritional approach called the functional medicine perspective focuses on how diet impacts health and function.  This links nutrition and chronic disease through bodily systems such as the digestive system, the immune system and the lymphatic system because they are all interlinked. For example a large proportion of the immune system is contained in the gut, meaning an immune disorder could actually be related to faulty digestion.  Acknowledging this, an immune disorder can be managed by looking at the digestive system and diet.    This approach looks at the body and the person as a whole and could be a much more rounded way of managing health and treating disease. 

 

To go back just a few years a government statistical bulletin showed in 2014, nearly a quarter of all deaths (23%) in England and Wales were from causes considered potentially avoidable through timely and effective healthcare or public health interventions.**  The biggest contributors to avoidable deaths are chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease which are both closely linked to diet and lifestyle choices such as physical inactivity, unbalanced diets, tobacco and maintaining a healthy weight.  So we can see by being more aware and making better choices research can help develop better strategies to improve the nations health. 

 

 

So what current information do we have? We know not to eat too much red meat and smoking is bad but there is surprising new information emerging everyday.   Lots of information is suggesting the link between the bacteria in our guts and significant health conditions, for example the link between bacteria and depression. This research highlights the bacterial ecosystem of our digestive tract as fundamental to issues such as weight management, our mood, motivation and energy levels. Another developing area of research is epi-genetics, this analyses how environmental factors effects our DNA (our biological blueprint), influencing how this blueprint is read and implemented. Even if you have genes that predispose you to certain health problems, from cancer to obesity, you can keep them dormant or counteract their activity by improving your nutrition, your habits, and how you live.  There is so much new and emerging science it is an exciting yet confusing time to be in the health and nutrition industry . 

 

 

Sources 

https://www.functionalmedicine.org/files/library/cn-chapter-1.pdf?pdf=CNChapter1PDF

http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/food-medicine/how-does-food-impact-health

***https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/avoidablemortalityinenglandandwales/2014

http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/summary/en/

 

 

 

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