This article needs substantial rewriting to focus on the psychological aspects of nutrition.
Nutrition science studies the relationship between diet and states of health and disease. Dieticians are health professionals who are specialized in this area of expertise, highly trained to provide safe, evidence-based dietary advice and interventions. (See Outline of nutrition)
There is a spectrum ranging from malnutrition to optimal health, including many common symptoms and diseases which can often be prevented or alleviated with better nutrition.
Deficiencies, excesses and and imbalances in diet can produce negative impacts on health, which may lead to diseases such as scurvy, obesity or osteoporosis, as well as psychological and behavioral problems. Moreover, excessive ingestion of elements that have no apparent role in health, (e.g. lead, mercury, PCBs, dioxins), may incur toxic and potentially lethal effects, depending on the dose. The science of nutrition attempts to understand how and why specific dietary aspects influence health.
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 3 Nutrition and Health
- 4 Nutrition and sports
- 5 Nutrition and longevity
- 6 Nutrition, industry and food processing
- 7 Advice and guidance on nutrition
- 8 Issues
- 9 See also
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Nutrition science seeks to explain metabolic and physiological responses of the body to diet. With advances in molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics, nutrition science is additionally developing into the study of integrative metabolism, which seeks to connect diet and health through the lens of biochemical processes.
The human body is made up of chemical compounds such as water, amino acids (proteins), fatty acids (lipids), nucleic acids (DNA/RNA), and carbohydrates (e.g. sugars and fiber). These compounds in turn consist of elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and may or may not contain minerals such as calcium, iron, or zinc. Minerals ubiquitously occur in the form of salts and electrolytes. All of these chemical compounds and elements occur in various forms and combinations (e.g. hormones/vitamins, phospholipids, hydroxyapatite), both in the human body and in organisms (e.g. plants, animals) that humans eat.
The human body necessarily comprises the elements that it eats and absorbs into the bloodstream. The digestive system, except in the unborn fetus, participates in the first step which makes the different chemical compounds and elements in food available for the trillions of cells of the body. In the digestive process of an average adult, about seven litres of liquid, known as digestive juices, exit the internal body and enter the lumen of the digestive tract. The digestive juices help break chemical bonds between ingested compounds as well as modulate the conformation and/or energetic state of the compounds/elements. However, many compounds/elements are absorbed into the bloodstream unchanged, though the digestive process helps to release them from the matrix of the foods where they occur. Any unabsorbed matter is excreted in the feces. But only a minimal amount of digestive juice is eliminated by this process; the intestines reabsorb most of it; otherwise the body would rapidly dehydrate; (hence the devastating effects of persistent diarrhea).
Study in this field must take carefully into account the state of the body before ingestion and after digestion as well as the chemical composition of the food and the waste. Comparing the waste to the food can determine the specific types of compounds and elements absorbed by the body. The effect that the absorbed matter has on the body can be determined by finding the difference between the pre-ingestion state and the post-digestion state. The effect may only be discernible after an extended period of time in which all food and ingestion must be exactly regulated and all waste must be analyzed. The number of variables (e.g. 'confounding factors') involved in this type of experimentation is very high. This makes scientifically valid nutritional study very time-consuming and expensive, and explains why a proper science of human nutrition is rather new.
In general, eating a variety of fresh, whole (unprocessed) plant foods has proven hormonally and metabolically favourable compared to eating a monotonous diet based on processed foods. In particular, consumption of whole plant foods slows digestion and provides higher amounts and a more favourable balance of essential and vital nutrients per unit of energy; resulting in better management of cell growth, maintenance, and mitosis (cell division) as well as regulation of blood glucose and appetite. A generally more regular eating pattern (e.g. eating medium-sized meals every 3 to 4 hours) has also proven more hormonally and metabolically favourable than infrequent, haphazard food intake.
Humans have evolved as omnivorous hunter-gatherers over the past 250,000 years. The diet of early modern humans varied significantly depending on location and climate. The diet in the tropics tended to be based more heavily on plant foods, while the diet at higher latitudes tended more towards animal products.
Agriculture developed about 10,000 years ago in multiple locations throughout the world, providing grains such as wheat, rice, and maize, with staples such as bread and pasta. Farming also provided milk and dairy products, and sharply increased the availability of meats and the diversity of vegetables[How to reference and link to summary or text]. The importance of food purity was recognized when bulk storage led to infestation and contamination risks. Cooking developed as an often ritualistic activity, due to efficiency and reliability concerns requiring adherence to strict recipes and procedures, and in response to demands for food purity and consistency.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Antiquity through Enlightenment
- The first recorded nutritional experiment is found in the Bible's Book of Daniel. Daniel and his friends were captured by the king of Babylon during an invasion of Israel. Selected as court servants, they were to share in the king's fine foods and wine. But they objected, preferring vegetables (pulses) and water in accordance with their Jewish dietary restrictions. The king's chief steward reluctantly agreed to a trial. Daniel and his friends received their diet for 10 days and were then compared to the king’s men. Appearing healthier, they were allowed to continue with their diet.
- c. 475 BC: Anaxagoras states that food is absorbed by the human body and therefore contained "homeomerics" (generative components), thereby deducing the existence of nutrients.
- c. 400 BC: Hippocrates says, "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food."
- 1500s: Scientist and artist Leonardo da Vinci compared metabolism to a burning candle.
- 1747: Dr. James Lind, a physician in the British navy, performed the first scientific nutrition experiment, discovering that lime juice saved sailors who had been at sea for years from scurvy, a deadly and painful bleeding disorder. The discovery was ignored for forty years, after which British sailors became known as "limeys." The essential vitamin C within lime juice would not be identified by scientists until the 1930s.
- 1770: Antoine Lavoisier, the "Father of Nutrition and Chemistry" discovered the details of metabolism, demonstrating that the oxidation of food is the source of body heat.
- 1790: George Fordyce recognized calcium necessary for fowl survival.
Modern era through 1941
- Early 1800s: The elements carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen were recognized as the primary components of food, and methods to measure their proportions were developed.
- 1816: François Magendie discovers that dogs fed only carbohydrates and fat lost their body protein and died in a few weeks, but dogs also fed protein survived, identifying protein as an essential dietary component.
- 1840: Justus Liebig discovers the chemical makeup of carbohydrates (sugars), fats (fatty acids) and proteins (amino acids.)
- 1860s: Claus Bernard discovers that body fat can be synthesised from carbohydrate and protein, showing that the energy in blood glucose can be stored as fat or as glycogen.
- Early 1880s: Kanehiro Takaki observed that Japanese sailors developed beriberi (or endemic neuritis, a disease causing heart problems and paralysis) but British sailors did not. Adding milk and meat to Japanese diets prevented the disease.
- 1896: Baumann observed iodine in thyroid glands.
- 1897: Christiaan Eijkman worked with natives of Java, who also suffered from beriberi. Eijkman observed that chickens fed the native diet of white rice developed the symptoms of beriberi, but remained healthy when fed unprocessed brown rice with the outer bran intact. Eijkman cured the natives by feeding them brown rice, discovering that food can cure disease. Over two decades later, nutritionists learned that the outer rice bran contains vitamin B1, also known as thiamine.
- Early 1900s: Carl Von Voit and Max Rubner independently measure caloric energy expenditure in different species of animals, applying principles of physics in nutrition.
- 1906: Wilcock and Hopkins showed that the amino acid tryptophan was necessary for the survival of mice. Gowland Hopkins recognized "accessory food factors" other than calories, protein and minerals, as organic materials essential to health but which the body cannot synthesise.
- 1907: Stephen M. Babcock and Edwin B. Hart conduct the Single-grain experiment. This experiment runs through 1911.
- 1912: Casimir Funk coined the term vitamin, a vital factor in the diet, from the words "vital" and "amine," because these unknown substances preventing scurvy, beriberi, and pellagra, were thought then to be derived from ammonia.
- 1913: Elmer V. McCollum discovered the first vitamins, fat soluble vitamin A, and water soluble vitamin B (in 1915; now known to be a complex of several water-soluble vitamins) and names vitamin C as the then-unknown substance preventing scurvy.
- 1919: Sir Edward Mellanby incorrectly identified rickets as a vitamin A deficiency, because he could cure it in dogs with cod liver oil.
- 1922: McCollum destroys the vitamin A in cod liver oil but finds it still cures rickets, naming vitamin D
- 1922: H.M. Evans and L.S. Bishop discover vitamin E as essential for rat pregnancy, originally calling it "food factor X" until 1925.
- 1925: Hart discovers trace amounts of copper are necessary for iron absorption.
- 1927: Adolf Otto Reinhold Windaus synthesizes vitamin D, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1928.
- 1928: Albert Szent-Gyorgyi isolates ascorbic acid, and in 1932 proves that it is vitamin C by preventing scurvy. In 1935 he synthesizes it, and in 1937 he wins a Nobel Prize for his efforts. Szent-Gyorgyi concurrently elucidates much of the citric acid cycle.
- 1930s: William Cumming Rose identifies essential amino acids, necessary protein components which the body cannot synthesize.
- 1935: Underwood and Marston independently discover the necessity of cobalt.
- 1936: Eugene Floyd Dubois shows that work and school performance are related to caloric intake.
- 1938: The chemical structure of vitamin E is discovered by Erhard Fernholz, and it is synthesised by [[Paul Karrer.
- 1941: The first Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) were established by the United States National Research Council;
- 1992 The U.S. Department of Agriculture Introduces Food Guide Pyramid
- 2002 Study shows relation between nutrition and violent behavior
- 2005 Obesity may be caused by adenovirus in addition to bad nutrition
Nutrition and Health
There are six main classes of nutrients that the body needs: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. It is important to consume these six nutrients on a daily basis to build and maintain healthy bodily function.
Poor health can be caused by an imbalance of nutrients, either an excess or deficiency, which, in turn, affects bodily functions cumulatively. Moreover, because most nutrients are involved in cell-to-cell signalling (e.g. as building blocks or as part of a hormone or signalling cascades), deficiency or excess of various nutrients affects hormonal function indirectly. Thus, because they largely regulate the expression of genes, hormones represent a link between nutrition and how our genes are expressed, i.e. our phenotype. The strength and nature of this link are continually under investigation, but recent observations have demonstrated a pivotal role for nutrition in hormonal activity and function and therefore in health.
Essential and non-essential amino acids
The body requires amino acids to produce new body protein (protein retention) and to replace damaged proteins (maintenance) that are lost in the urine. In animals amino acid requirements are classified in terms of essential (an animal cannot produce them) and non-essential (the animal can produce them from other nitrogen containing compounds) amino acids. Consuming a diet that contains adequate amounts of essential (but also non-essential) amino acids is particularly important for growing animals, who have a particularly high requirement.
Mineral and/or vitamin deficiency or excess may yield symptoms of diminishing health such as goitre, scurvy, osteoporosis, weak immune system, disorders of cell metabolism, certain forms of cancer, symptoms of premature aging, and poor psychological health (including eating disorders), among many others.
As of 2005, twelve vitamins and about the same number of minerals are recognized as "essential nutrients", meaning that they must be consumed and absorbed - or, in the case of vitamin D, alternatively synthesized via UVB radiation - to prevent deficiency symptoms and death. Certain vitamin-like substances found in foods, such as carnitine, have also been found essential to survival and health, but these are not strictly "essential" to eat because the body can produce them from other compounds. Moreover, thousands of different phytochemicals have recently been discovered in food (particularly in fresh vegetables), which have many known and yet to be explored properties including antioxidant activity (see below). Other essential nutrients include essential amino acids, choline and the essential fatty acids.
In addition to sufficient intake, an appropriate balance of essential fatty acids - omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids - has been discovered to be crucial for maintaining health. Both of these unique "omega" long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are substrates for a class of eicosanoids known as prostaglandins which function as hormones. The omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (which can be made in the body from the omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), or taken in through marine food sources), serves as building block for series 3 prostaglandins (e.g. weakly-inflammation PGE3). The omega-6 dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) serves as building block for series 1 prostaglandins (e.g. anti-inflammatory PGE1), whereas arachidonic acid (AA) serves as building block for series 2 prostaglandins (e.g. pro-inflammatory PGE 2). Both DGLA and AA are made from the omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) in the body, or can be taken in directly through food. An appropriately balanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 partly determines the relative production of different prostaglandins, which partly explains the importance of omega-3/omega-6 balance for cardiovascular health. In industrialised societies, people generally consume large amounts of processed vegetable oils that have reduced amounts of essential fatty acids along with an excessive amount of omega-6 relative to omega-3.
The rate of conversions of omega-6 DGLA to AA largely determines the production of the respective prostaglandins PGE1 and PGE2. Omega-3 EPA prevents AA from being released from membranes, thereby skewing prostaglandin balance away from pro-inflammatory PGE2 made from AA toward anti-inflammatory PGE1 made from DGLA. Moreover, the conversion (desaturation) of DGLA to AA is controlled by the enzyme delta-5-desaturase, which in turn is controlled by hormones such as insulin (up-regulation) and glucagon (down-regulation). Because different types and amounts of food eaten/absorbed affect insulin, glucagon and other hormones to varying degrees, not only the amount of omega-3 versus omega-6 eaten but also the general composition of the diet therefore determine health implications in relation to essential fatty acids, inflammation (e.g. immune function) and mitosis (i.e. cell division).
Several lines of evidence indicate lifestyle-induced hyperinsulinemia and reduced insulin function (i.e. insulin resistance) as a decisive factor in many disease states. For example, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are strongly linked to chronic inflammation, which in turn is strongly linked to a variety of adverse developments such as arterial microinjuries and clot formation (i.e. heart disease) and exaggerated cell division (i.e. cancer). Hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance (the so-called metabolic syndrome) are characterized by a combination of abdominal obesity, elevated blood sugar, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood triglycerides, and reduced HDL cholesterol. The negative impact of hyperinsulinemia on prostaglandin PGE1/PGE2 balance may be significant.
The state of obesity clearly contributes to insulin resistance, which in turn can cause type 2 diabetes. Virtually all obese and most type 2 diabetic individuals have marked insulin resistance. Although the association between overfatness and insulin resistance is clear, the exact (likely multifarious) causes of insulin resistance remain less clear. Importantly, it has been demonstrated that appropriate exercise, more regular food intake and reducing glycemic load (see below) all can reverse insulin resistance in overfat individuals (and thereby lower blood sugar levels in those who have type 2 diabetes).
Obesity can unfavourably alter hormonal and metabolic status via resistance to the hormone leptin, and a vicious cycle may occur in which insulin/leptin resistance and obesity aggravate one another. The vicious cycle is putatively fuelled by continuously high insulin/leptin stimulation and fat storage, as a result of high intake of strongly insulin/leptin stimulating foods and energy. Both insulin and leptin normally function as satiety signals to the hypothalamus in the brain; however, insulin/leptin resistance may reduce this signal and therefore allow continued overfeeding despite large body fat stores. In addition, reduced leptin signalling to the brain may reduce leptin's normal effect to maintain an appropriately high metabolic rate.
There is debate about how and to what extent different dietary factors -- e.g. intake of processed carbohydrates, total protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake, intake of saturated and trans fatty acids, and low intake of vitamins/minerals -- contribute to the development of insulin- and leptin resistance. In any case, analogous to the way modern man-made pollution may potentially overwhelm the environment's ability to maintain 'homeostasis', the recent explosive introduction of high Glycemic Index- and processed foods into the human diet may potentially overwhelm the body's ability to maintain homeostasis and health (as evidenced by the metabolic syndrome epidemic).
Antioxidants are another recent discovery. As cellular metabolism/energy production requires oxygen, potentially damaging (e.g. mutation causing) compounds known as radical oxygen species or free radicals form as a result. For normal cellular maintenance, growth, and division, these free radicals must be sufficiently neutralized by antioxidant compounds, some produced by the body with adequate precursors (glutathione, Vitamin C in most animals) and those that the body cannot produce may only be obtained through the diet through direct sources (Vitamin C in humans, Vitamin A, Vitamin K) or produced by the body from other compounds (Beta-carotene converted to Vitamin A by the body, Vitamin D synthesized from cholesterol by sunlight). Different antioxidants are now known to function in a cooperative network, e.g. vitamin C can reactivate free radical-containing glutathione or vitamin E by accepting the free radical itself, and so on. Some antioxidants are more effective than others at neutralizing different free radicals. Some cannot neutralize certain free radicals. Some cannot be present in certain areas of free radical development (Vitamin A is fat-soluble and protects fat areas, Vitamin C is water soluble and protects those areas). When interacting with a free radical, some antioxidants produce a different free radical compound that is less dangerous or more dangerous than the previous compound. Having a variety of antioxidants allows any byproducts to be safely dealt with by more efficient antioxidants in neutralizing a free radical's butterfly effect.
Intestinal bacterial flora
- Main article: Gut flora
It is now also known that the human digestion system contains a population of a range of bacteria and yeast such as Bacteroides, L. acidophilus and E. coli which are essential to digestion, and which are also affected by the food we eat. Bacteria in the gut fulfill a host of important functions for humans, including breaking down and aiding in the absorption of otherwise indigestible food; stimulating cell growth; repressing the growth of harmful bacteria, training the immune system to respond only to pathogens; and defending against some diseases.
A growing area of interest is the effect upon human health of trace chemicals, collectively called phytochemicals, nutrients typically found in edible plants, especially colorful fruits and vegetables (see Whole Foods Diet, below). Unlike the anecdotal and sometimes specious nutritional claims of medicinal herbs and compounds, the effects of phytochemicals increasingly survive rigorous testing by prominent health organizations. One of the principal classes of phytochemicals are polyphenol antioxidants, chemicals which are known to provide certain health benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system. These chemicals are known to down-regulate the formation of reactive oxygen species, key chemicals in cardiovascular disease.
Perhaps the most rigorously tested phytochemical is zeaxanthin, a yellow-pigmented carotenoid present in many yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Repeated studies have shown a strong correlation between ingestion of zeaxanthin and the prevention and treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Less rigorous studies have proposed a correlation between zeaxanthin intake and cataracts. A second carotenoid, lutein, has also been shown to lower the risk of contracting AMD. Both compounds have been observed to collect in the retina when ingested orally, and they serve to protect the rods and cones against the destructive effects of light.
Another caretenoid, beta-cryptoxanthin, appears to protect against chronic joint inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. While the association between serum blood levels of beta-cryptoxanthin and substantially decreased joint disease has been established, neither a convincing mechanism for such protection nor a cause-and-effect have been rigorously studied. Similarly, a red phytochemical, lycopene, has substantial credible evidence of negative association with development of prostate cancer.
The correlations between the ingestion of some phytochemicals and the prevention of disease are, in some cases, enormous in magnitude. For example, several studies have correlated high levels of zeaxanthin intake with roughly a 50% reduction in AMD. The difficulties in demonstrating causative properties and in applying the findings to human diet, however, are similarly enormous. The standard for rigorous proof of causation in medicine is the double-blind study, a time-consuming, difficult and expensive process, especially in the case of preventative medicine. While new drugs must undergo such rigorous testing, pharmaceutical companies have a financial interest in funding rigorous testing and may recover the cost if the drug goes to market. No such commercial interest exists in studying chemicals that exist in orange juice and spinach, making funding for medical research difficult to obtain.
Even when the evidence is obtained, translating it to practical dietary advice can be difficult and counter-intuitive. Lutein, for example, occurs in many yellow and orange fruits and vegetables and protects the eyes against various diseases. However, it does not protect the eye nearly as well as zeaxanthin, and the presence of lutein in the retina will prevent zeaxanthin uptake. Additionally, evidence has shown that the lutein present in egg yolk is more readily absorbed than the lutein from vegetable sources, possibly because of fat solubility. At the most basic level, the question "should you eat eggs?" is complex to the point of dismay, including misperceptions about the health effects of cholesterol in egg yolk, and its saturated fat content.
As another example, lycopene is prevalent in tomatoes (and actually is the chemical that gives tomatoes their red color). It is more highly concentrated, however, in processed tomato products such as commercial pasta sauce, or tomato soup, than in fresh "healthy" tomatoes. Such sauces, however, tend to have high amounts of salt, sugar, other substances a person may wish or even need to avoid.
Nutrition and sports
Nutrition is very important for improving sports performance. Contrary to popular belief, athletes need only slightly more protein than an average person.[How to reference and link to summary or text] These needs are easily met by a balanced diet, and the recommended daily servings are generous enough to meet these needs. Additional protein intake is broken-down to be used as energy or stored as fat. Excess protein or grain consumption in the absence of alkalizing mineral intake (from fruits and vegetables) leads to chronic low grade acididosis in which calcium and glutamine are leached from bone and muscle respectively to keep the blood pH steady.
Endurance, strength and sprint athletes have different needs. Many athletes may require an increased caloric intake.
Maintaining hydration during periods of physical exertion is key to good performance. While drinking too much water during activities can lead to physical discomfort, dehydration hinders an athlete’s ability. It is recommended that an athlete drink about 400-600mL 2-3 hours before activity, during exercise he or she should drink 150-350mL every 15 to 20 minutes and after exercise that he or she replace sweat loss by drinking 450-675 mL for every .5 kg body weight loss during activity.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Some studies have shown that an athlete that drinks before they feel thirsty stays cooler and performs better than one who drinks on thirst cues, although recent studies of such races as the Boston Marathon have indicated that this recommendation can lead to the problem of overhydration.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Additional carbohydrates and protein before, during, and after exercise increase time to exhuastion as well as speed recovery. Dosage is based on work performed, lean body mass, and environmental factors (heat)
The main fuel used by the body during exercise is carbohydrates, which is stored in muscle as glycogen- a form of sugar. During exercise, muscle glycogen reserves can be used up, especially when activities last longer than 90 min.[How to reference and link to summary or text] When glycogen is not present in muscles, the muscle cells perform anaerobic respiration producing lactic acid, which is responsible for fatigue and burning sensation, and post exercise stiffness in muscles.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Because the amount of glycogen stored in the body is limited, it is important for athletes to replace glycogen by consuming a diet high in carbohydrates. Meeting energy needs can help improve performance during the sport, as well as improve overall strength and endurance.
Nutrition and longevity
Lifespan may be somehow related to the amount of food energy consumed. A pursuit of this principle of caloric restriction followed, involving research into longevity of those who reduced their food energy intake while attempting to optimize their micronutrient intake. Perhaps not surprisingly, some people found that cutting down on food reduced their quality of life so considerably as to negate any possible advantages of lengthening their lives. However, a small set of individuals persist in the lifestyle, going so far as to monitor blood lipid levels and glucose response every few months. See Calorie Restriction Society.
Underlying this research was the hypothesis that oxidative damage was the agent which accelerated aging, and that aging was retarded when the amount of carbohydrates (and thereby insulin release) was reduced through dietary restriction.
However, recent research has produced increased longevity in animals (and shows promise for increased human longevity) through the use of insulin uptake retardation. This was done through altering an animal’s metabolism to allow it to consume similar food-energy levels to other animals, but without building up fatty tissue.
This has set researchers off on a line of study which presumes that it is not low food energy consumption which increases longevity. Instead, longevity may depend on an efficient fat processing metabolism, and the consequent long term efficient functioning of our organs free from the encumbrance of accumulating fatty deposits. Thus, longevity may be related to maintained insulin sensitivity. However, several other factors including low body temperature seem to promote longevity also and it is unclear to what extent each of them contribute.
Antioxidants have recently come to the forefront of longevity studies which have included the Food and Drug Administration and Brunswick labs.
Whole Plant Food Diet
Heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes are commonly called "Western" diseases because these maladies were once rarely seen in developing countries. One study in China found some regions had essentially no cancer or heart disease, while in other areas they reflected “up to a 100-fold increase” coincident with diets that were found to be entirely plant-based to heavily animal-based, respectively. In contrast, diseases of affluence like cancer and heart disease are common throughout the United States. Most Americans eat an animal protein based diet, with relatively few calories coming from plant foods. Adjusted for age and exercise, large regional clusters of people in China rarely suffered from these “Western” diseases because their diets are rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
The United Healthcare/Pacificare nutrition guideline recommends a whole plant food diet, and recommends using protein only as a condiment with meals. A National Geographic (November 2005) cover article, titled The Secrets of LIVING LONGER also recommends a whole plant food diet. The article is a lifestyle survey of three populations, Sardinians, Okinawans, and Adventists, who generally display longevity and "suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life. In sum, they offer three sets of 'best practices' to emulate. The rest if up to you." In common with all three groups is to "Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains."
The National Geographic article noted that a NIH funded study of 34,000 Seventh-Day Adventists between 1976 and 1988 "...found that the Adventists' habit of consuming beans, soy milk, tomatoes, and other fruits lowered their risk of developing certain cancers. It also suggested that eating whole grain bread, drinking five glasses of water a day, and, most surprisingly, consuming four servings of nuts a week reduced their risk of heart disease. And it found that not eating red meat had been helpful to avoid both cancer and heart disease."
Note that cancer is now common in developing countries. According a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer: “In the developing world, cancers of the liver, stomach and esophagus were more common, often linked to consumption of carcinogenic preserved foods, such as smoked or salted food, and parasitic infections that attack organs.” Lung cancer rates are rising rapidly in poorer nations because of increased use of tobacco. Developed countries “tended to have cancers linked to affluence or a "Western lifestyle" -- cancers of the colon, rectum, breast and prostate -- that can be caused by obesity, lack of exercise, diet and age.”
The French "paradox"
- Main article: French paradox
It has been discovered that people living in France live longer. Even though they consume more saturated fats than Americans, the rate of heart disease is lower in France than in North America. A number of explantions have been suggested:
- Reduced consumption of processed carbohydrate and other junk foods;
- Ethnic genetic differences allowing the body be harmed less by fats;[How to reference and link to summary or text]
- Regular consumption of red wine; or
- Living in the South requires the body to produce less heat, allowing a slower, and therefore healthier, metabolic rate. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
It should be noted that the word "paradox" is meaningful only for those who support the lipid hypothesis and believe that saturated fats are "unhealthy". In fact, a large number of scientific studies exist which disprove this hypothesis; a fact which has been drawn to public attention in recent years by doctors and scientists such as Dr Uffe Ravnskov, Dr Mary G. Enig, and others. There appears to be no correlation in human populations between the level of saturated fat consumption and the risk of developing heart disease. Various other human cultures with low rates of heart disease apart from the French, such as the Maasai of Africa and the Eskimo of the Arctic regions, have traditional diets which are high in animal fats. In Okinawa, where the average life span for women is longer than in Japan, the inhabitants eat generous amounts of pork and seafood and do all their cooking in lard.
Nutrition, industry and food processing
Since the Industrial Revolution some two hundred years ago, the food processing industry has invented many technologies that both help keep foods fresh longer and alter the fresh state of food as they appear in nature. Cooling is the primary technology that can help maintain freshness, whereas many more technologies have been invented to allow foods to last longer without becoming spoiled. These latter technologies include pasteurisation, autoclavation, drying, salting, and separation of various components, and all appear to alter the original nutritional contents of food. Pasteurisation and autoclavation (heating techniques) have no doubt improved the safety of many common foods, preventing epidemics of bacterial infection. But some of the (new) food processing technologies undoubtedly have downfalls as well.
Modern separation techniques such as milling, centrifugation, and pressing have enabled upconcentration of particular components of food, yielding flour, oils, juices and so on, and even separate fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Inevitably, such large scale upconcentration changes the nutritional content of food, saving certain nutrients while removing others. Heating techniques may also reduce food's content of many heat-labile nutrients such as certain vitamins and phytochemicals, and possibly other yet to be discovered substances. Because of reduced nutritional value, processed foods are often 'enriched' or 'fortified' with some of the most critical nutrients (usually certain vitamins) that were lost during processing. Nonetheless, processed foods tend to have an inferior nutritional profile than do whole, fresh foods, regarding content of both sugar and high GI starches, potassium/sodium, vitamins, fibre, and of intact, unoxidized (essential) fatty acids. In addition, processed foods often contain potentially harmful substances such as oxidized fats and trans fatty acids.
A dramatic example of the effect of food processing on a population's health is the history of epidemics of beri-beri in people subsisting on polished rice. Removing the outer layer of rice by polishing it removes with it the essential vitamin thiamine, causing beri-beri. Another example is the development of scurvy among infants in the late 1800's in the United States. It turned out that the vast majority of sufferers were being fed milk that had been heat-treated (as suggested by Pasteur) to control bacterial disease. Pasteurisation was effective against bacteria, but it destroyed the vitamin C.
As mentioned, lifestyle- and obesity-related diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent all around the world. There is little doubt that the increasingly widespread application of some modern food processing technologies has contributed to this development. The food processing industry is a major part of modern economy, and as such it is influential in political decisions (e.g. nutritional recommendations, agricultural subsidising). In any known profit-driven economy, health considerations are hardly a priority; effective production of cheap foods with a long shelf-life is more the trend. In general, whole, fresh foods have a relatively short shelf-life and are less profitable to produce and sell than are more processed foods. Thus the consumer is left with the choice between more expensive but nutritionally superior whole, fresh foods, and cheap, usually nutritionally inferior processed foods. Because processed foods are often cheaper, more convenient (in both purchasing, storage, and preparation), and more available, the consumption of nutritionally inferior foods has been increasing throughout the world along with many nutrition-related health complications.
Advice and guidance on nutrition
Most Governments provide guidance on good nutrition, and some also impose mandatory labeling requirements upon processed food manufacturers to assist consumers in complying with such guidance. Current dietary guidelines in the United States are presented in the concept of a food pyramid.
Nutrition is taught in schools in many countries. In England and Wales the Personal and Social Education and Food Technology curricula nutrition included, stressing the importance of a balanced diet and teaching how to read nutrition labels on packaging. But in developing countries, it is a distant dream; misconceptions, gender bias, unawareness about hygienic conditions etc. are still existing in their full strength.
Challenging issues in modern nutrition include:
"Artificial" interventions in food production and supply:
- Should genetic engineering be used in the production of food crops and animals?
- Are the use of pesticides, and fertilizers damaging to the foods produced by use of these methods (see also organic farming)?
- Are the use of antibiotics and hormones in animal farming ethical and/or safe?
- Is it possible to eat correctly on a low income? Is proper nutrition economically skewed? How do we increase access to whole foods in impoverished neighborhoods?
- How do we minimise the current disparity in food availability between first and third world populations (see famine and poverty)?
- How can public advice agencies, policy making and food supply companies be coordinated to promote healthy eating and make wholesome foods more convenient and available?
- Do we need nutritional supplements in the form of pills, powders, liquids, etc.?
- How can the developed world promote good worldwide nutrition through minimising import tariffs and export subsidies on food transfers?
- How do different nutrients affect appetite and metabolism, and what are the molecular mechanisms?
- Can a whole plant food diet, replete with diversity and colors, be instituted and implemented to improve health and reduce medical costs?
- What yet to be discovered important roles do vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients play in metabolism and health?
- Are the current recommendations for intake of vitamins and minerals appropriate?
- How and why do different cell types respond differently to chronically elevated circulating levels of insulin, leptin, and other hormones?
- What does it take for insulin resistance to develop?
- What other molecular mechanisms may explain the link between nutrition and lifestyle-related diseases?
- What role does the intestinal bacterial flora play in digestion and health?
- How essential to proper digestion are the enzymes contained in food itself, which are usually destroyed in cooking (see Living foods diet)?
- What more can we discover through what has been called the phytochemical revolution?
- Main list: List of basic nutrition topics
- The Times newspaper, January 31 2004 Could vitamins help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s? by Jerome Burne.
- The Times newspaper February 28, 2004 Autism: I can see clearly now . . . by Simon Crompton
- The Times newspaper March 10, 2004 Work up an Amish appetite by Anne-Celine Jaeger
- William Eaton et al. 2004. Coeliac disease and schizophrenia. British Medical Journal, February 21, 2004.
- Janssen I, Katzmarzyk PT, Ross R. Waist circumference and not body mass index explains obesity-related health risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Mar;79(3):379-84.
- J Mei, SSC Yeung et al. 2001. High dietary phytoestrogen intake and bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Vol 86, Iss 11.
- Merritt JC. 2004. Metabolic syndrome: soybean foods and serum lipids. J Natl Med Assoc. Aug;96(8):1032-41.
- Sobczak S, et al. (2004) Lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and increased omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in first-degree relatives of bipolar patients Psychol Med. 2004 Jan;34(1):103-12.
- Walter C. Willett and Meir J. Stampfer. 2003. Rebuilding the Food Pyramid. Scientific American January 2003.
- Galdston, I., Human Nutrition Historic and Scientific (New York: International Universities Press, 1960)
- Mahan, L.K. and Escott-Stump, S. eds. (2000) Krause's Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy. 10th ed. (Phaladelphia: W.B. Saunders Harcourt Brace)
- Unraveling the Enigma of Vitamin D - a paper funded by the United States National Academy of Sciences
- "Can a virus make you fat?" at BBC News; "Contagious obesity? Identifying the human adenoviruses that may make us fat" at Science Blog
- Shils et al. (2005) Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. ISBN 0-7817-4133-5.
- Seddon JM et al. JAMA. 1994; 272: 1413-1420; Schepens Eye Institute/Harvard Medical School, Nov. 11, 2003. See http://www.mdsupport.org/library/zeaxanthin.html.
- Lyle, B. J., J. A. Mares-Perlman, et al. (1999). "Antioxidant intake and risk of incident age-related nuclear cataracts in the Beaver Dam Eye Study." Am J Epidemiol 149(9): 801-9; Yeum, K. J., A. Taylor, et al. (1995). "Measurement of carotenoids, retinoids, and tocopherols in human lenses." Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 36(13): 2756-61; Chasan-Taber, L., W. C. Willett, et al. (1999). "A prospective study of carotenoid and vitamin A intakes and risk of cataract extraction in US women." Am J Clin Nutr 70(4): 509-16; Brown, L., E. B. Rimm, et al. (1999). "A prospective study of carotenoid intake and risk of cataract extraction in US men." Am J Clin Nutr 70(4): 517-24.
- Am J Clin Nutr, Vol. 82, No. 2, 451-455, August, 2005 (inflammatory polyarthritis); Am J Epidemiology 2006 163(1).
- Am J Clin Nutr, Vol. 70, No. 2, 247-251, August 1999.
- Weindruch R, et al. The retardation of aging in mice by dietary restriction: longevity, cancer, immunity and lifetime energy intake. Journal of Nutrition, 116(4), pages 641-54.,April, 1986.
- Bluher, Khan BP, Kahn CR, Extended longevity in mice lacking the insulin receptor in adipose tissue. Science 299(5606): 572-4, Jan 24, 2003.
- Das M, Gabriely I, Barzilai N.Caloric restriction, body fat and aging in experimental models. Obes. Rev. 2004 Feb;5(1):13-9.
- Campbell T., Campbell T. The China Study, Dallas: Benella Books, 2005
- Campbell T., Campbell T. The China Study, Dallas: Benella Books, 2005
- Coren, Michael Study: Cancer no longer rare in poorer countries. CNN. URL accessed on 2007-01-01.
- Dr Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, The Skinny on Fats, 1999. (On-line article from Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. ISBN 0-96708-973-5.
- Franklyn, D., Health (September 1996), pp. 57-63.
- Morris, Audrey, Audia Barnett, Olive-Jean Burrows (2004). Effect of Processing on Nutrient Content of Foods. CAJANUS 37 (3): pp. 160-164.
Professional Dietetic Associations and Resources
- International Confederation of Dietetic Associations
- The American Dietetic Association
- The British Dietetic Association
- Dietitians of Canada
- The Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association
- Dietitians Association of Australia
- New Zealand Dietetic Association
- nutrition data
- Diet, Nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases by a Joint WHO/FAO Expert consultation (2003)
- UN Standing Committee on Nutrition - In English, French and Portuguese
- USDA Frequently asked questions
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