Nutrition is the discipline that studies the food and its utilization by the body. This is a key element of health: some diseases are directly related to what we eat. Reflections on a growing importance in science.
The importance of good nutrition is not a new idea … Already 400 BC Hippocrates said that “Power was our first medicine”, and according to the Millennium Chinese medicine, foods are also remedies which it is important to respect a specific manual to prevent and even treat diseases.
Deficiencies and men
Nutrition In the last century, it was demonstrated the link between nutritional deficiencies and serious illness. These different forms of malnutrition are nowadays public health problems in developing countries, such as blindness due to vitamin A deficiency or cretinism due to iodine deficiency. However, it is after the disappearance of major nutritional deficiencies in Europe that the idea that outside of any malnutrition diseases could be linked to nutritional factors, and since the 60s, research on the links between diet and health has made tremendous progress.
A public health problem
There is now evidence that the two biggest causes of death in France – cardiovascular disease and cancer – are linked to the way we eat. We also know that dietary factors are associated with the occurrence of many other widespread diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis or obesity, and that a “good” nutrition is a key factor in “good” health. For example atherosclerosis, hardening phenomenon of artery walls, sometimes starts early in life and can be stopped or even reversed if we limit saturated fats in the diet. Similarly, it may be genetically predisposed to diabetes but never be affected by the disease if it maintains an acceptable weight. Finally we know the importance of eating dietary fiber to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Food and performance
But beyond the protective role or conversely “at risk” of certain nutrients (vitamins blessed, banned cholesterol!), The notion of better nutrition guarantees a healthier at large has made its way. The role of food themselves and eating behavior on the physical and intellectual performance, on resistance to infections or in the fight against aging are commonly accepted. It is also clear that the only nutrition is not the only guarantee for better health and a longer life, but it is in addition to the regular practice of physical exercise, reducing consumption tobacco and alcohol, stress control, a limitation of exposure to environmental risks and other factors to improve the quality of life.
Striking a balance
The basis of good nutrition is based on balance, variety and moderation of our diet. To stay healthy body needs a certain proportion of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins and also vitamins and minerals. But the urban modern diet is often unbalanced or even unstructured and goes hand in hand with a life increasingly sedentary. The restoration of good practice is more difficult than it seems and nutrition education must start early, especially considering childhood obesity increasing in alarming proportions in recent years.
Today nutritional science has become more important than ever, and next to the development of new scientific knowledge are increasing more or less valid on the virtues of foods and fad diets or otherwise evil theories. Apart from occasionally shopping substantive argument or reassuring simplification to consumers, assigning so many benefits or so many evils to the food tends to shorten and distort scientific truths long and hard to establish the links between diet and health. So even though some foods are better than others, none of them is bad in itself because it is always about balance, variety and moderation.
Good dietary practices
In the current state of knowledge, it has highlighted the role of certain foods such risk factors or otherwise as protectors to disease. Dietetics recommend “good food practices” for everyone and specific measures for the sick or for those wishing to lose a few kilos. Yet nutrition remains a huge area to explore science and research in full swing around the world on complex subjects such as nutritional needs of the body, the role of genetic factors on nutritional status or mode of action nutrients and their specific effect on the onset of disease.
That is why in the coming years the nutritional recommendations are expected to take on even more importance and become increasingly accurate in terms of prevention and treatment of disease.