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A Dietary Prescription Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Maulik Baxi, Canada May 31, 2005
Health , Food   Opinions
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A Dietary Prescription Nutrition has been a dynamic subject of interest for politicians, sociologists, health care professionals and lately a topic of discussion in the media as well. Nutrition as a science had been largely neglected by traditional medicines until the world wars. An interesting history underlies the current status of nutrition as an established science, and a mammoth sized, ever profiting industry.

A Spicy History

The world looked at what it eats first when the vitamins were discovered around the time of First World War. Soon thereafter inquisitive physicians, mainly in the Western Europe and the northern Americas, started searching for causes of illnesses hitherto unknown or what they described as ‘idiopathic’. Advent of biotechnology techniques, made them aware of importance of proteins and carbohydrates soon after World War II ended. Molecular biology allowed prolific research, and man not only started counting rocks on the moon, but also number of chemicals inside his own body. As late as 1980s and we had an understanding of many micronutrients and trace elements.

As we started counting what is inside the kitchen chemicals, the world outside saw a flourishing interest in searching treatments from the same kitchen chemicals. Not just the people with large spectacles and white coats were ‘In’ to the nutritional science, the people with black coats and red ties also did their job. Nutrition as a science developed into epidemiological assessment of nutritional status of the communities, dietary surveys, growth monitoring, nutritional rehabilitation and indicators of nutritional interventions – gave birth to what is largely acknowledged as Nutritional Epidemiology and Dietetics.

What is in your dish?

Contents of the dish vary by culture, region, religion, country and climate, and so do the factors behind nutritional status of individuals among those groups. It is now largely accepted that nutrition is cornerstone of socioeconomic development and that lasting improvement in the nutritional status can be brought only through attacking those factors of poverty, injustice and illiteracy that propagate malnutrition. Promotion of food supply and nutrition has been well integrated in components of Primary Health Care accepted by the World Health Assembly right from 1970s with the Alma Ata Declaration and even in numerous other resolutions, laws and proceedings passed in several other world bodies.

The ‘Health for All’ targets and more recently, the Millennium Development Goals, also stress upon importance of nutrition and food security. The World Health Organization (WHO) had also encouraged countries to form their own National Dietary Goals to promote family and community health and improve general nutritional status. A very important outcome was Food Pyramid by the US, which has become very popular among nutritionists, physicians, program developers and private sector. Another landmark development was establishment and development of National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) in India, which produced Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) guidelines, which is an effective epidemiological and health promotive tool for over 25% of the world’s population.

What should I eat, Doc?

There have been numerous other dietary or nutritional guidelines existing today so much so that a Google Search for the words “Nutrition Guide” results in 41,000,000 matching results and for the words “Dietary Guide” in 7,090,000 results on May 31, 2005!

It is becoming exceedingly challenging to define a fixed criteria for as diverse population as human beings have. Every human body functions and uses food components as metabolites in a different fashion and has different factors affecting its outcome. As a general rule, though, it is estimated that on a typical work day, an adult person working in areas of medium energy expenditure, should have:

-Out of their total calories intake 30% should come from fats, 40-50% from carbohydrates and rest from proteins.

-Should drink 1-1.5 liters of water to metabolize the nutrients optimally

-Should take vitamins, micronutrients and trace elements as per the RDA for their age, occupation and culture. Optimum amount includes the minimally required contents with an additional small amount to keep a safety margin.

-Mixture of all essential amino acids in the diet, as they are important constituents of different enzymes, vitamins and body fluids: Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Cystine, Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine. Egg, milk and pulses are key sources of essential amino acids.

-Mixture of essential fatty acids – in a similar way to amino acids – viz., Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Arachidonic Acid and Eicosapentanoic Acid. Dietary fats obtained from oils, butter, meat etc are rich sources for fats.

-Calories should be limited between 2200 to 3000 Kilocalories per day in person doing routine 8 hour work with medium stress.

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