Nutrition and Malnutrition Research paper
There is an old Arab proverb that says, “One’s stomach is the home of his illness.” This proverb implies that most illnesses and health problems come from the eating and dietary habits. The ways through which human beings try to get their nutrition and energy play a very important and direct way in the wellbeing of their bodies. The majority of people in modern times have problems with their health because of poor eating habits. A few centuries ago, millions of people used to die from time to time due to famine and hunger. Today, fewer people die from famine. However, most modern people, especially in industrial and developed countries, are dying from eating too much of what harms their health and bodies. In the modern world, some eat too little while others eat too much. Between the two, there is not much difference. When the body suffers from problems related to nutrition it is said to be suffering of malnutrition. Malnutrition occurs as a result of not having a balanced nutrition in the body, and it can lead to serious health problems.
Most doctors and medical sciences believe that nutrition is perhaps the most serious threat to human health in the twentieth century, even more serious than cancer or heart diseases (Arnow, 1).
Malnutrition does not only relate to the lack in nutritional materials needed by the body, but also to any lack of balance in the individual’s diet. Hence, a person who takes in too much or too little nutrition may suffer from malnutrition. In other words, unlike what many people believe that malnutrition is about eating too little, it is a problem that could be related to taking in too little or too much of nutritious materials (Arnow, 1-2).
Kinds of malnutrition
The most common kind of malnutrition is the lack of vitamins and proteins in the food taken by the body. Vitamins are biological compounds that help the body maintain its health. The body must have a stable consumption of vitamins in order to carry out its functions. Lacking vitamins can lead to many problems. For example, lacking vitamin A can lead to night blindness, problems in the eyes and poor vision (Eastwood, 185). Deficiency in Vitamin B12, on the other hand, causes anemia and problems in the nervous system (Eastwood, 225).
Proteins, on the other hand, are complex compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are responsible for the storage of energy, especially in the muscles. This energy is not used by the body until the individual decides to carry out certain activities that require the heavy use of muscles. However, lacking in proteins, the muscles will not be able to carry out their functions properly, and in many cases, the body suffers from weakness, fatigue and other problems (Eastwood, 226).
In addition to vitamins and proteins, there are numerous other elements that the body needs. Many of these elements are actually minerals such as calcium. The lack of calcium in the body can lead to very serious problems, especially in the bones. Osteomalacia, that is, suffering from weak bones that break easily is the consequence of lacking calcium in the bodies. Children, women, and elderly people suffer a lot from this problem (Eastwood, 225).
Lacking nutritious elements in the body is certainly a big problem. However, another serious problem is overeating and having too much nutritious elements in the body. In recent surveys, it was found out that almost 35% of all Americans suffer from overweight because of poor nutrition habits. With lack of awareness of the problem, more Americans and other people are becoming overweight every year. Overeating and overweight can lead to serious problems such diabetes, blood pressure, and heart diseases, in addition to many other illnesses (De Vita, online). Similarly, over consumption of alcohol causes the liver to enlarge, and at the same time, it leads to increasing the amount of proteins and fats inside the liver. Eventually, the cells of the liver will swell and the liver itself will stop functioning properly (Eastwood, 169-170).
Consequences of malnutrition can always be serious or at least lead to serious results on the long run. One serious problem that is becoming very common in the modern world is liver cancer which is directly related to nutrition habits, especially the consumption of too much alcohol. Suffering a low level of dietary fibers is also related to different cancers and this happens as a result of eating little vegetables and fruits while at the same time, consuming a lot of meat (Eastwood, 543).
Suffering from poor health is another major consequence of malnutrition. Having problems with digestion, headaches, heart diseases, blood pressure problems, and many others are all the result of malnutrition problems (Mayo Foundation, online). Migraines have recently been closely linked to diet problems. It is estimated that 20% of the time, someone suffers a migraine, and the actual cause is nutrition. Migraines are the cause of suffering for more than 23 million people in America alone (Mayo Foundation, online). Foods that are related to migraines include alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, pickles, nuts, pizza, and most preserved foods (Mayo Foundation, online).
Eventually, as disorders related to nutrition develop and become worse, the body becomes weaker, and with time, it will suffer from side effects and other problems. Having liver cancer, blood pressure, heart diseases and/or various other health problems related to nutrition can in the end lead to death. Millions of people die every year because of these problems (Arnow, 5).
Since the old Arab proverb is right about the responsibility of malnutrition for many of the disorders that people suffer, it is important to find ways to deal with nutrition problems. One effective way to solve this problem is to know which type of body one has. Different types of bodies require different types of nutrition because they consume energy in different ways. The four types of identified by some nutrition scientists are: pituitary, adrenal, thyroidal and gonadal, depending on which glands and hormones control most of the energy consumption in the body (De Vita, online).
According to the type of body one has, nutrition problems may lead to different diseases. People who are identified as the thyroidal type may suffer from diabetes and circulation problems. People who belong to the adrenal group may suffer from heart diseases whereas those belonging to the gonadal category may suffer from gynecological and foot problems. Finally, the pituitary group members mainly suffer from headaches and sinusitis (De Vita, Online).
The second step in combating malnutrition is to know what type of food is most suitable for the body. In general, a human being who does not involve in any activities during a day will need an average of 1,500 kilocalories in order to support the internal activities of his body. This quantity is known as (BMR), basal metabolic rate (Eastwood, 90). However, the energy requirement for the individual will vary with many factors, especially age, sex, pregnancy, weight, menstruation and physical activity (Eastwood, 90). Those who wish to avoid health problems related to nutrition will try to understand the type of body they have and will meet the nutritional needs that their bodies demand. Scientific research has shown that people who keep control of their weight and have a stable intake of nutrition are likely to suffer of less health problems. On the other hand, people whose weight changes a lot may suffer from many disorders. Therefore, knowing how the body reacts to food and what exactly it needs to have and what it has to avoid are important that result in enjoying a healthy diet and body (Eastwood, 314).
The problem, however, is that many people do not really know what they should eat and drink, mainly because they are not very familiar with nutrition and the science of foods. This problem can be easily dealt with. The study of nutrition has developed a lot during the past years, and many dietitians have become available to serve their communities. In the past, these dietitians worked mostly with hospitals, but now, they are providing services to anyone who seeks them. A dietitian can identify the nutritional needs of the body and therefore provide the individual with the suitable foods for his or her health. To deal with migraines and many other disorders that are related to food, getting advice from a dietitian is the best recommendation. The reason is that dietitians do not only provide advice on how food is to be taken, but also help in managing food intake (Mayo Foundation, online).
An old Arab proverb identifies the healthy people as those who eat only when they are hungry but leave the food before they feel full. Applying the advice in this proverb can solve most of the malnutrition problems that cause pain and health problems to most people in the modern times. A few decades ago, millions of people died because they ate too little, and today, millions are dying either because they are eating too much because they are eating foods in the wrong way. The best policy to enjoy food and have a healthy and nurtured body is to know what to eat and what not to eat. Following a stable and balanced dietary policy is one way through which people can maintain their health and live better for a very long period. On the other hand, malnutrition, especially that resulting from the lack of a balanced diet can have a disastrous consequence for the body. Any modern person who really wants to avoid trouble with malnutrition should regularly see a dietitian who will study the needs of his or her body and who will prescribe a balanced diet that best suits the needs of the metabolic system.
Arnow, L. Earle. Food Power: A Doctor’s Guide to Commonsense Nutrition.
Chicago: Nelson-Hall Company, 1972.
De Vita, Elizabeth. “Death to diets.” Harper’s Bazaar, online, January 5, 1998:
April 20, 1999.
Eastwood, Martin. Principles of Human Nutrition. New York: Chapman & Hall,
“Food triggers of migraines.” Mayo Foundation of Medical Education &
Research, online: April 17, 1999.
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