On good nutrition

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Nutrition is an integral part of human existence and scientific research in the field of nutrition and health has made great strides in recent years. As malnutrition is a serious health problem we should take concerted action so that no one is deprived of nutritious food essential for health and ultimately survival.

Food-related investigations cover a broad range of topics in close relation with many other health-oriented disciplines. An emerging issue in the field of nutrition is the important role of our food on physiological homeostasis and resilience of the human body. The multi-factorial interplay between biological, environmental, and socioeconomic determinants may provide a plausible explanation of the obesity epidemics. The documented examples include:

Further, research on the involvement of the adipose tissue in many regulatory processes will allow to better understand how nutrition-related body homeostasis should be taken into account in relation to the global constraints of sustainable development.

Another environmental key player is the microbiome ecosystem, an integrated part of the human organism. Ganesh and Versalovic present an insightful review on the role of our gut microbiota, and its composition, on health and disease. On the basis of a careful review of the literature with a focus on immune regulation, the authors address the direct and indirect interplay between the gastro-intestinal tract, its commensals and nutrients, both ingested and produced through metabolic processes. Bacterial-derived metabolites are known to influence host immune responses, while dysregulation of the related cellular and molecular pathways may affect the gut functionalities and increase the host’s susceptibility to immune-mediated pathologies. This underlines the importance of beneficial micro-organisms in regulating the homeostasis of the human body. Further, investigations of these mediating properties can have important implications for the development of cost-effective preventative interventions to manage the increasing number of gastro-intestinal and metabolic disorders.

When studying the effects of food on human beings in their macro- or micro-environment, the citizen him- or herself-whether considered as being healthy, part of an at risk population or a patient—is obviously an “interfering” factor who impacts the larger public health context. Based on these considerations, Segal and Opie make a strong plea for implementing comprehensive nutrition strategies to reduce the diet-related disease burden. Such strategies need to incorporate both public health approaches and expanded publicly funded dietetic services. Multi-component strategies are proposed which include social marketing, regulatory restrictions on advertising of junk food/drinks, punitive taxes on unhealthy foods, suitable food labeling and publicly funded dietician services. Dietetic services are suggested to be part of core health service delivery and funded at a level that supports access to individualized dietetic services. Adopting such strategies may lead to substantial improvements in diet quality, better health, and wellbeing and lower healthcare costs.

A guest Editorial