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.
There are many resources available to facilitate this for us. For example, the USDA offers chooseMyPlate.gov (http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/dietary-guidance/myplate-and-historical-food-pyramid-resources) and supertracker (https://www.SuperTracker.usda.gov/) that help in planning, tracking and analyzing our daily diet.
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.
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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.