Most Widely Accessible Facts About Food/Nutrition and Health Do Not Rise To the Occasion To Make Us Stay Healthy

Current facts about food/nutrition on our health, especially those used by policy makers in many countries to develop dietary guidelines do not step up to the plate on keeping us stay healthy. The current status of facts widely available to the public on food/nutrition and our health, makes it fairly complex to put to use, not only by the  ordinary layman, but also by people skilled in the nutrition science field. This is likely to be due to the fact that most of the theoretical foundations from which the nutritional facts are derived are based on the reductionist biomedical model of diseases or ill-health, which makes it a monumental task to apply in exploration of the complex nutritional science/medical field.

One of the  areas of concern on this issue lies in undue attention given to macronutrients at the expense of micronutrients  in their roles to human health and disease. Such a scenario calls to attention, challenges of the usefulness of nutrition information for both health professionals as well as individual health empowerment of  ordinary people employing lifestyle changes (including healthy diet) to improve their health. There is a need to put the facts straight in order to demystify the myths created around nutrition in health and disease.

Here, I present a simplified narrative of straight facts of an outline of the role and effects of macronutrients and micronutrients, (derived directly from the food we eat)  in human health and disease, based on nutrient(s) intake requirements in relationship optimum health and nutritional health-related problems (diseases).

The objective is to achieve nutrient intake levels  which cater for optimum health, which includes prevention of what is referred to as “hidden hunger” related health problems. Hidden hunger occurs when you have not ingested enough micronutrients, which are found in the food you eat, what ever type of diet it is. Micronutrients are the drivers of metabolic processes and hence it is understandable to link their deficiencies or malfunctions to metabolic disorders (most of which are chronic noncommunicable diseases). As a matter of fact, there is a build up of consensus on the view that deficiencies in specific micronutriets lead to more specific metabolic health problems or disease conditions compared to the macronutrient deficiencies (also easily depicted graphically in the table below).  An excellent example is that of osteoporosis, which comes about as a result of deficiency in a very specific list of vitamins and minerals (Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vit K).  Pandeficiency, is a term used by Dr. Hoffer, A., to define involvement of a number of micronutrients deficiency in development of a particular nutritional disorder/disease and or several nutritional deficiency diseases, in the same manner osteoporosis develops from a list of  specific vitamins and minerals.

A Simplified Outline of Macro-/Micro-nutrients And Their Deficiency or Excess Disorders

Macronutrient Intake Levels
Micronutrient Itake
Levels
Classic DeficiencyHidden Hunger DisordersClassic DeficiencyHidden Hunger Disorders
NutrientNutrient
ProteinKwashiorkorVitamin AXerophthalmia
Growth Retardation in children,
Impaired Immunity
Keratinization of skin and mucosal membranes
Caloric Nutrients:
Carbs, Fats & Proteins


Marasmus


Obesity as Risk Factor for NCDs
Thiamine (Vit. B1)BeriberiEating disorders (Loss of appetite),
Fatigue, Nervous system disorders, Muscle weakness, Vision problems, etc.  
Niacin (Vit. B3)PellagraPandeficiency Disoders (Neurological, cardiovascular, Neoplastic conditions, etc.).
Vitain B12Perniceous AnaemiaPandeficiency Disoders (Neurological, cardiovascular, Neoplastic conditions, etc.).
Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C) ScurvyImpaired immunity, Musculoskeletal disorders, Poor wound healing, Bleeding (gums, nose), Vision problems, etc.
Vitamin DRicketsOsteoporosis
Impaired immunity, Depression, Impaired wound healing, Muscle pain, etc,
IodineGoitreWeight gain, Fatigue syndrome, Memory problems, Reproductive disorders, Hair and Skin problems, etc
Iron (Fe)Iron-deficiency AnaemiaFatigue syndrome. Sensitivity to temperature, Chest pains, Restless leg syndrome, cardiovascular problems, Hair and nail problems, etc.
Magnesium (Mg) Several disordersPandeficiency phenomenon

Of interest to note is that nutrient deficiencies from the food we eat and related health disorders  is largely an issue of micronutrients, where as the issue with macronutrients and related health disorders is largely that of excess intake (especially caloric intake). This forms the fundamental difference in the intervention approaches: for micronutrients we need to supplement inadequacies in our foods and for macronutrients, we need to cut down intake from the foods we eat.

The main concerning issues with the current widely accessible nutritional facts (which are by the way mostly generated from the biomedical model of health), is that, they hardily recognize, acknowledge and pay attention to the existence of  hidden hunger disorders (mostly micronutrient deficiency linked disorders). Therefore, with regards to micronutrients, this informs us that the current widely accessible information on food/nutrition and our health, are of little value in helping us to combat the scourge of most of the chronic noncommunicable diseases and or simply stay healthy.

On the issue of macronutrients, the widely accessible facts on food/nutrition and our health is very much obsessed with counting calories, an approach which is unlikely  necessary for weight loss or fighting obesity as risk factor for some of the chronic non-communicable diseases. Considering the complexity of nutritional science in health and disease, already documented in some post on this blog, and concisely stated by Woolston (2017) in the following statements: “Scientists may never be able to unravel all of the ways that diet affects our well-being. It’s simply not practical to randomize large groups of people and expect them to change their food habits over years or a lifetime, the kind of study it would take, for example, to precisely calculate how certain food patterns raise or lower the risk of cancer or heart disease. Since many nutritional questions will forever remain out of reach of classic experimental science, there will always be room for debate. Low-carb, low-fat, low-glycemic, vegetarian, vegan — people follow many paths to healthy eating, and some diets are bound to be more realistic and effective than others. Furthermore, Fung (2018) adds that “We pretend we live in a world where nutrition demands scientifically rigorous proof that prescribed treatments are effective. So, where are the studies that show that cutting calories causes long-term weight loss? After 50 years of desperate, intense research, guess how many studies prove its long-term effectiveness?

Once more, with regards to macronutrients, if count is not the real solution for weight loss, this informs us that the current widely accessible facts on food/nutrition and our health, are of little value in helping us to combat the epidemic of most of the chronic noncommunicable diseases and or simply to keep us stay healthy.


Sources:

Fung, J. (2018). Cutting calories won’t solve your weight issues – do this instead. Available at: https://www.dietdoctor.com/cutting-calories-wont-solve-weight-issues-instead

Woolston, C. (2017). Balance, not carbs or fat, is the key to healthy eating. An expert’s view on a common-sense diet: Don’t fuss over details, and put more plants on the plate . Available at: https://www.knowablemagazine.org/article/health-disease/2017/balance-not-carbs-or-fat-key-healthy-eating

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