The relevance of nutrition in health

Nutrition can be described as the science of consuming and utilizing foods in a natural medicinal way so as to provide the human body with optimum health by taking care of the body’s dietary needs. Nutritional science studies how the human body catabolizes and anabolizes certain groups of foods to see how they affect the repair and creation of new and old cells.

Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, combined with regular physical activity, are essential to good health and wellbeing. Poor diet and lifestyle choices can lead to an increased susceptibility to disease, reduced immunity and impaired physical and mental development (World Health Organization 2009).

The role nutrition plays in an individual’s healthThe role nutrition plays in an individual’s health is one of great importance. Without the right care, our bodies, our minds and our lifestyles begin to deteriorate. By nurturing our bodies via the foods we ingest we can help ensure that they remain healthy and functioning. In order to thrive we must provide the body with the required amount of vitamins, minerals and enzymes on a regulatory basis.

Consuming a heart healthy diet is important for managing hypertension and reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and other dietary diseases such as type two diabetes and diet related cancers (American Heart Association 2014).

The relationship between nutritional status and the therapeutic outcomes of other modalities such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture or general practice The relationship between an individual’s nutritional status and the therapeutic outcome they wish to attain via natural medicine modalities is imperative.

Naturopathy is a natural method for maintaining wellness which provides a holistic approach to therapy by assessing the individual’s lifestyle, including nutritional, emotional, mental and physical habits, and then prescribing the necessary changes as well as natural and herbal medicines to encourage and maintain a lifestyle that supports health and wellbeing.

Nutritional medicine studies how macro and micro nutrients affect the chemical processes of an individual and how attention to cellular nutrition can benefit their overall health. Both of these practices require implementation of a healthy and varied diet in order to achieve beneficial therapeutic outcomes (Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council 2013).

The relevance of considering dietary changes and nutritional supplementation in addressing nutritional status Dietary changes and nutritional supplementation are well known as highly useful tools when attempting to correct a nutritional deficiency. Folic acid’s benefit in pregnancy is a well-documented example of this. Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is a micronutrient which can be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, grains, cereals and meat. Folate has an important role in the synthesis of DNA and the division of cells.

Significant folate deficiency can lead to several different birth defects including neural tube defects (NTD’s), spinal bifida and anencephaly (birth without part of the brain) as the neural tube is the embryonic precursor to the brain and spinal column. Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, is used in multivitamin supplements because it is better absorbed by the body (Science Based Medicine 2013).

Recently, a meta-analysis was conducted on women who were planning to marry in an area of China which exhibited a high prevalence of NTD’s. They were asked to take 400mg of folic acid a day until the end of their first trimester of pregnancy. The women who demonstrated a high compliance rate (defined as an 80% use rate) in taking the supplement during their periconceptional period demonstrated an 85% reduction inNTD births (WHO The Reproductive Health Library 2014).

Use of diet versus supplementationVitamins are organic compounds our bodies require, in small amounts, for a variety of metabolic processes and functions. Although supplementation can be beneficial for some such as the elderly, pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and some vegan and vegetarians, research indicates that vitamins are better absorbed from a varied diet and are more beneficial for you than those contained in supplement pills. The exception to this is folate.

The synthetic form, titled folic acid, is better absorbed by the body than that of the folate found in regular food sources. Even though vitamin supplements are synthesized to the exact chemical composition of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, the rest don’t seem to work as well. The explanation for this is that food is a complex source of minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals which all work together to help the body in its metabolic processes whereas supplements tend to work alone in isolation with just the ‘active ingredient’.

Research has validated belief that vitamin supplements do not provide the benefits of, and should not substitute, a varied diet of healthy unprocessed foods (Better Health Channel Deakin University Australia 2013).

ConclusionIn order to correct the devastating relationship we have created with ‘food’ and ‘non-foods’ we must first re-learn and re-educate ourselves on the impact diet has on not only our physical health but also our lifestyles. A healthy diet is the best weapon we have in the fight for health and survival in the 21st century.

We can utilise food to our advantage if we become consciously aware of our dietary needs and see to it that these needs are adequately fulfilled and not over nourished or under nourished. The food you choose to eat can be the most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.