Overweight people are hungry for nutrients, not food. K Volcy. MJoTA 2014 v8n2 p0715
The image of a skeleton African child on the verge of death may be the face of malnutrition foremost in most of our minds, but a significant number of children and adults worldwide suffer from micro-nutritional malnourishment.
Malnutrition is the cause of close to half of all death worldwide according to a 2010 review on nutrition policy by the World Health Organization . Although macronutrient-rich foods are highly accessible for consumption, there is an epidemic of micronutrient starvation worldwide[2, 3].
The former food pyramid adopted by the United States health agencies, for example, recommended the consumption of grains for more than a third of total daily caloric intake. Since 2012, the USDA, which is the official US agency concerned with what we eat, has adopted the plate icon for nutritional recommendation. Vegetables and fruits make up half of the plate now, and this is in response to the obesity epidemic that has continuously ascended in the US since the 1980s.
Food is abundant in the US, but nutrition-rich foods are not accessible to everyone, either because they are not grown or sold locally, or because the prices are too high. Consequently, vegetables and fruits are not prevalent in the diet of poor Americans, and if they are eating calorie-laden food instead, their diet can result in obesity. Obesity is frequently a nutrient problem; failure to consume the proper nutrients compels hunger for more food because the body needs those elements in our diet to function properly[5, 6].
High level of carbohydrate consumption such as bread, pasta, and rice packs on the pounds and stimulates the dopaminergic reward pathway[7, 8]. Induction of this pathway produces a feeling of well being that causes a person to become addicted to the carbohydrate stimulant, leading to exacerbation of an unhealthy diet. Alternatively, a low carbohydrate diet is as effective at promoting healthy weight as a low fat diet[9, 10]. Certain groups are more susceptible to these deficiencies[3, 11, 12] and economic is a common factor.
Micronutrients are essential part of a healthy diet that only needs to be available in tiny amounts: these include vitamins and minerals. Minerals cannot be produced by the body so must be obtained through diet. The source for minerals—such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium—is the soil; whether we consume the plant or eat the meat from the cow that fed on the grass that sprung from that soil.
Although trace amount of minerals are needed in our bodies, they serve significant functions essential to our health. Calcium is vital for us to have strong bones that are necessary to our mobility, and also for the contraction of our heart. Magnesium, which functions in the relaxation of our heart also acts as co-activator for over 300 enzymes in our bodies and participates in the production of ATP, which is our bodies’ source of energy. A nutritionally balanced diet is necessary for the control of non-communicable diseases, and each of us must take the lead in ensuring this for ourselves.
I will tell you about vitamins next time. Meanwhile, instead of cooking up a pot of spaghetti, see if you can sauté a head or 2 of broccoli in a bit of olive oil with ample parsley, oregano and black pepper to taste.
1. Global nutrition policy review: What does it take to scale up nutrition action? WHO 2013.
2. Welch RM & Graham RD. A new paradigm for world agriculture: meeting human needs. Productive, sustainable, nutritious. Field Crops Research 1999, 60:1-10.
3. Welch RM. 2001. Micronutrients, agriculture and nutrition; linkages for improved health and well being. In: Singh K, Mori S, Welch RM, eds. Perspectives on the micronutrient nutrition of crops. Jodhpur, India: Scientific Publishers, 247–289.
4. CL Ogden, MD Carroll. Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults: United States, Trends 1960–1962 Through 2007–2008 CDC, 2010.
5. Riera-Crichton D, Tefft N. Macronutrients and obesity: Revisiting the calories in, calories out framework. Econ Hum Biol. 2014 Jul;14:33-49.
6. Blum K, Chen TJ, Meshkin B, Downs BW, Gordon CA, Blum S, Mengucci JF, Braverman ER, Arcuri V, Varshavskiy M, Deutsch R, Martinez-Pons M. Reward deficiency syndrome in obesity: a preliminary cross-sectional trial with a Genotrim variant. Adv Ther. 2006 Nov-Dec;23(6):1040-51.
7.Blum K, Braverman ER, Holder JM, Lubar JF, Monastra VJ, Miller D, Lubar JO, Chen TJ, Comings DE. Reward deficiency syndrome: a biogenetic model for the diagnosis and treatment of impulsive, addictive, and compulsive behaviors. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2000 Nov;32 Suppl:i-iv, 1-112. Review.
8. Comings DE, Blum K. Reward deficiency syndrome: genetic aspects of behavioral disorders. Prog Brain Res. 2000;126:325-41. Review.
9. Hu T, Mills KT, Yao L, Demanelis K, Eloustaz M, Yancy WS Jr, Kelly TN, He J, Bazzano LA. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct 1;176 Suppl 7:S44-54.
10. Friedman AN, Ogden LG, Foster GD, Klein S, Stein R, Miller B, Hill JO, Brill C, Bailer B, Rosenbaum DR, Wyatt HR. Comparative effects of low-carbohydrate high-protein versus low-fat diets on the kidney. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2012 Jul;7(7):1103-11.
11. Cole CR, Grant FK, Swaby-Ellis ED, Smith JL, Jacques A, Northrop-Clewes CA, Caldwell KL, Pfeiffer CM, Ziegler TR. Zinc and iron deficiency and their interrelations in low-income African American and Hispanic children in Atlanta. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;91(4):1027-34.
12. Huffman FG, Vaccaro JA, Zarini GG, Biller D, Dixon Z. Inadequacy of micronutrients, fat, and fiber consumption in the diets of Haitian-, African- and Cuban-Americans with and without type 2 diabetes. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2012 Aug;82(4):275-87.
Keeping my mother healthy. K Volcy. MJoTA 2014 v8n1 p0621
“Mother, you have two choices, either you eat more vegetables and exercise, or you must start taking the medicine,” I almost screamed in frustration over the phone after she informed me that her doctor had told her that her blood sugar levels were still bordering towards diabetes.
My mother is a sixty-one year old woman who follows a Haitian diet of rice, beans, and proteins. She loves to cook for the family, so when I visited and woke up once again to a plate of plantain and dried fish with no veggies in sight, I looked at the plate of deliciousness and shock my head in disappointment. “Where are the vegetables?” I would ask when it became too painful for me to withstand.
I had told her many times to always have veggies with every meal. I felt like she was saying with these meals of love, I don’t value my health, and I don’t want a prolonged life. Getting adults who are entrenched in their ways to make dramatic changes in something so personal and emotional as diet are the great challenges to the control of this chronic and debilitating disease.
It seems hard for my mother, and I am sure others diagnosed with diabtes or pre-diabetes, to make a profound enough connection to want to create the required change. “The salad should be the main course, the salad should be the main course, the salad should be the main course;” I have kept repeating to her like a mantra, quoting Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
She had been listening: she had given up her beloved sweets, purchased a fancy ninja blinder to make smoothies, and gone on morning walks, which are progressive steps.
The primary cause of adult onset diabetes according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is excessive body weight resulting from poor diet and lack of physical activity. Diabetes results in many blood associated complications; out of the 347 million people worldwide living with diabetes, fifty percent will die from heart disease and stroke, and disease severity is associated with foot ulcers, infection, and amputation due to lack of blood flow to the bodies’ extremities and nerve damage. Blindness and kidney failures are also associated with chronic diabetes, and the risk of early death doubles for those with diabetes.
Because living with chronic diabetes has so many downsides, patients need to make the connection and take the steps, which can be adopted with some creativity to incorporate personal preferences, and the benefits are improvement in quality of life as one ages and longevity.
For example, my mother has opted for drinking her vegetables nowadays, and she felt good as long as she was staying on the wagon, but I have been there to help her get back on when she deviated because these changes must be long-term, and they are feasible adaptations.
Dr Volcy is a scientist with a PhD in microbiology from University of Rochester, and was for 3 years a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She has published original papers for her work in phage and herpes simplex virus-1. Through her understanding of the scientific basis of good health, Dr. Volcy became interested in the benefits of a healthy diet in maintaining a sound mind and body. She supports scientific work to develop treatment for diseases, but also knows that the body is efficient in protecting itself from infection, cancer and other diseases, and we can facilitate our health, often, by making simple lifestyle changes. Her Linkedin resume click here. Dr Volcy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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