FOOD AND OUR HEALTH: ISSUES OF ADEQUACY, INADEQUACY & IMBALANCE
i) Looking at diet within the context of the macroeconomic implications of public health recommendations on agriculture, and the global supply and demand for foodstuffs, both fresh and processed.
ii) Role of diet in defining the expression of genetic susceptibility to NCDs,
iii) The need for responsible and creative partnerships with both traditional and non-traditional partners, and
iv) The importance of addressing the whole life course.
The expert joint WHO/FAO report released by WHO(2002) noted that several factors have constrained progress in the prevention of chronic diseases and these include: underestimation of the effectiveness of interventions; the belief of there being a long delay in achieving any measurable impact; commercial pressures, institutional inertia and inadequate resources, and therefore these aspects need to be taken seriously and combated.
Although there are several opportunities for new global and national actions, including strengthened interaction and partnerships; regulatory, legislative and fiscal approaches; and more stringent accountability mechanisms as noted by WHO (2002), these concepts have not led to a change in policies or in practice. Although a report by WHO(2002) indicated that such problems are mainly a common feature in developing countries, these issues are rather a global problem irrespective of the level of national development. A classic example of lack of changes in policies or practice is that of use of RDA for supplements, as pointed out by one of my favourite advocates for alternative therapies Strand (2002), that physicians are trained to believe that RDAs are the level of nutrients needed by the body for optimum health, and therefore, these assumptions are the main reasons why physicians, registered dietitians, nutritionists and the health care community in general, show resistance to concepts of use of nutritional supplementation to augment nutrients intake, a scenario that amounts to what could be termed structural barrier to adequate nutrient intake. More direct factors that lead to limited intake of nutrients is unavailability or lack of the specific nutrient (e.g. micronutrients) in the foods we consume.
Research indicates that depletion, for example, of a number of mineral elements in soils leads to low level in the harvested agricultural crops, thus producing low quality yields as evidenced by differences in mineral content or composition of the harvested crops of today compared to the crop of a couple of decades ago, and such changes are significant contributors of diet-induced ill health (Marler and Wallin, 2006; Strand, 2002; Thomas, 2007 and WorldWatch Institute, 2016). In the US, depletion of mineral nutrient from the soil was well documented by Karr (n.d.), and also in a 1936 US Senate Document #264 reproduced by Better Health Thru Research (2006). Thus, as early as the 1930s, US Senate Document #264 pointed out that it was alarming to note that foods, fruits and vegetables and grains harvested from millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain mineral nutrients, are actually starving the people, no matter how much of them are eaten. With no obvious measures taken anywhere worldover, to address the issues of nutrients depletion on farming lands, these remarks therefore lead us to the next big question: Can we improve nutrient intake to adequate levels for positive effects on our health?
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Better Health Thru Research (2006). US Senate Document # 264 – 1936.Available from: https://cdn.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/20171204123125/united-states-senate-document-264.pdf
Karr, M. (n.d.). Mineral Nutrient Depletion in US Farm and Range Soil. Available from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/34d2/03e548fec1b3e8e4be426a7d60e46939a78a.pdf
Marler, J. B., and Wallin, J. R. (2006).“Human Health, the Nutritional Quality of Harvested Food and Sustainable Farming Systems”. Nutrition Security Institute. Available from: http://www.biobased.us/NSI_White%20Paper_Web.pdf
Strand, R.D. (2002) What your doctor doesn't know about nutritional medicine may be killing you. Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville.
Thomas, D (2007), 'The mineral depletion of foods available to us as a nation (1940-2002) -A review of the 6th edition of McCance and Widdowson', Nutrition & Health, 19, 1/2, pp. 21 - 55.
WHO(2002) Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Available from: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/42665/WHO_TRS_916.pdf?sequence=1
WorldWatch Institute (2016). Crop Yields Expand but Nutrition is Left Behind. WWI - Vision for Sustainable World. Available from: https://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/09/10/crop-yields-expand-but-nutrition-is-left-behind-worldwatch-institute/