The concept of nutrition, as described within the context of various academic journals, is quite broad, thus has no particular definition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2017) describes nutrition as the cornerstone of medicine regarding preventive healthcare. It is also defined as the handmaiden of every curative process, and the responsibility of all physicians regardless of their areas of specialization. Based on this unparticular description, it is evident that nutrition covers a wide range of subjects, and that its importance in the medical field cannot be overstated. Additionally, the discussion of nutrition requires the input of different disciplines of medicine and biology. The history of nutrition, based on its impacts, is recognized to have started way before its emergence as a science. This; therefore, means that while nutrition has been known as a science for a relatively short period, its application has been in existence since the beginning of the world. All biological activities depend on nutrition to a large extent, and they cannot be satisfactorily carried out without sufficient nutrition.
Nutrition and its History
Artykulu (n.d) describes nutrition as one of the most basic living conditions alongside with growth and development and movement and reproduction. In fact, nutrition is described as a condition of life due to its impacts on the growth process and on other vital processes including wellbeing and fitness, mental development, and satisfaction of social needs. Moreover, the role of nutrition as understood by humans as being the acquisition, preparation, consumption of food, and metabolizing it by the body, has been the core occupation of man since the beginning of time. The concept of nutrition was recognized as early as the beginning of the human race. Initially, the food was instinctively sought, with hunger being the driving force. In later years, approximately 700 BC, more serious consideration of the science of nutrition came into being through the use of fire to prepare food. In the early 460 – 359 BC, Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Pythagoras began discussing nutrition as a science, specifically in terms of diet and therapy (Artykulu, n.d). The role of nutrition on medicine was recognized then.
The subject of nutrition has continued to gain wider understanding throughout the years. In 57 – 7 BC, Celcius, a Roman scientist classified all the available foods in terms of their contributions to growth and development. Additionally, the classification was followed by the inclusion of the elements of air, water, fire, and earth into the role of the formation or inhibition of body fluids. Between 1492 and 1541 AD the concept of poisons and toxicology was developed, contributing to the developments in the science of nutrition. The research on nutrition continued through the years, with major discoveries being made in the last 30 decades (Artykulu, n.d). The discoveries centered on the relationships between nutrition and medicine, xenobiotics and their impacts on the mental and physical development of man.
Importance of Nutrition on Health
The impact of nutrition on health is substantial and covers a variety of interactions within the science of nutrition. According to a study by Ohlhorst et al. (2013), one of the major functions of nutrition in health is the achievement of optimal bodily function. Optimal functioning can only be achieved when all the elements of the body are in a good state. Nutrition plays an important role in ensuring this happens through the provision of the necessary nutritive elements including carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, and minerals. The provision of such elements ensures that each part of the body functions as it should. For instance, carbohydrates in the body increase energy reserves, proteins have the objective of body building, and vitamins build immunity while minerals have a wide range of roles with regards to ensuring optimum body functions. Some of the vitamins such as Vitamin A enhance sight, especially at night. Others such as vitamins K and B have different other roles in the body. Minerals also have specific roles including enhancing immunity, boosting fertility and building strong skeletal muscles and cells.
The second function of nutrition in the body is to maintain energy balance. Good nutritional practices ensure that each individual has the sufficient amount of specific nutrients depending on their needs. Nutritional needs are calculated based on basal energy requirements as well as energy requirements when performing the commonly addressed responsibilities. As such, each person has their own nutritional needs depending on their activities. A good nutritive program ensures that there is a balance between the energy consumed and the energy utilization. Nutrition also provides effective recommendations for ensuring that each person has their required nutritive needs. The chart below shows nutritional needs for different people at different energy demands.
Figure 1: Nutritional requirements by age and gender (Source: USDA, n.d)
Based on the impacts of good nutrition on immunity, Ohlhorst et al. (2013) report that nutrition prevents the progression of different diseases, and therefore improve people’s prognosis. This is probably due to the impacts of nutrition on lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Specification of nutritional requirements for the victims of certain conditions results in effective control when the recommended nutritional practices are adhered to consistently. Moreover, nutrition also boosts the functioning of the brain due to its impacts on the growth of brain cells. It is for this reason that it is recommended that people suffering from issues such as frequent memory losses should consume a lot of omega three rich foods to boost their brain functioning.
Importance of Vitamins and Minerals
Minerals and vitamins are some of the most essential elements in human nutrition. Vitamins and minerals are in most cases unavailable in consumed foods but can be accessed through supplements as well as drugs. Vitamins and minerals have a wide range of applications in the human body. For instance, vitamin A is responsible for enhancing general development and growth in babies as well as in adults. Furthermore, it boosts the health of the skin and teeth and enhances vision. Foods such as carrots and other foods rich in beta carotene such as water melons and tomatoes all provide vitamin A. Other vitamins include vitamins B, C, D, E and K. Vitamin E enhances energy production, improves immune functioning and enhances the absorption of iron from the gut into the blood stream. Vitamin C, on the other hand, strengthens blood vessels, enhances skin elasticity and has great anti-oxidant properties (Goldberg, 2013). In essence, D fosters the development of strong bones; E enhances blood circulation and protects the body from the impacts of free radicals while vitamin K boosts blood coagulation in the case of injuries.
Minerals also have significant functions in the human body. According to Goldberg (2013), folic acid enhances cell renewal, and helps in preventing congenital disabilities in pregnant women. It is recommended that women in their prenatal durations should take folic acid tablets continuously until they are at least six months pregnant. In this way, the minerals help to boost the growth and development of the fetus and ultimately prevent congenital disabilities. The calcium minerals, on the other hand, foster the development of strong bones and teeth. Iron has a role to play in muscle building while chromium enhances the functioning of all the glucose obtained from the body. Immunity, growth, and fertility are enhanced through the consumption of zinc (Goldberg, 2013). While each of these minerals has an important role to play in the human body, none can be entirely effective on its own. The minerals and vitamins have to be consumed in entirety to accomplish more holistic outcomes. The chart below shows nutritional value of various foods with respect to micronutrients.
Figure 2: Diet variety to boost micronutrient intake (Source: FAO, 2000)
Deficiency Disorders for Different Nutrients
Mineral deficiencies can be of either primary or secondary origin. While primary deficiencies are linked to lack of dietary provision, the secondary ones are caused by lack of absorption for numerous reasons including, disturbances in absorption from the intestines, poor transportation, poor metabolic conversion and poor storage in the tissues (Hameed, 2013). The table below shows various deficiencies associated with specific minerals.
|Nutrient||Sources||Importance||Deficiency conditions and Symptoms|
|Vitamin A (retinoid)||· Carrots
· Orange foods such as sweet potatoes.
|· Maintaining normal vision.
· Enhancing cell differentiation and growth.
· Resistance to infections.
|· Impaired vision especially when there is reduced light.
· Persistent deficiency can result in keratinization and epithelial metaplasia.
|Vitamin D||· Exposure to the sun.
|· Maintaining the plasma levels of phosphorus and calcium at adequate levels.
|Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)||· Milk
· Some animal products
· A variety of fruits and vegetables.
|· Anti- oxidant
· Strengthening blood vessels.
· Giving elasticity to the skin.
|· Hemorrhages as well as healing defects in children and adults.
· Bone diseases among growing children.
|Vitamin E||· Almonds
· Sunflower seeds
|· Enhancing blood circulation
· Protecting the host from free radicals
|· Poor blood circulation
· Frequent attacks from opportunistic diseases.
· Dark Chocolate
|· Is an important component of enzymes||· Depressed mental activity.
· Growth retardation especially among children.
· Diarrhea and anorexia
|Iron||An important component of hemoglobin.||Excessive bleeding (hemorrhages)|
Figure 3: Deficiencies associated with various vitamins and minerals
Nutrition is an indispensible component of human life. The concept of nutrition and its application can be said to have started with the origin of the Homo sapiens species. In contemporary times, the subject of nutrition covers a wide range of disciplines and cannot be constrained within a limited scope. However, it is described as the process of food acquisition, preparation and consumption by man for utilization in bodily functions. Nutrition has a remarkable impact on the health of humankind. For instance, some of the roles played by nutrition in life include maintaining the balance of energy in the body, prevention of infections, and accomplishing optimum bodily functions. This cannot be achieved without the combination of all nutritive elements including vitamins and minerals. Vitamins such as Vitamins A, B, C, and D have essential roles in maintaining optimum functioning of specific parts of the body while minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium and chromium play crucial roles in maintaining the bodily functions within certain required conditions. In the absence of these minerals and vitamins, there are many deficiency symptoms that may be observed in the body and it is the responsibility of nutritionists to guide the affected individuals to the right types of foods that can help them remedy their nutritional deficiencies.
Artykulu, P. (n.d). The history of nutrition science. Retrieved from www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=18&ved=0ahUKEwjEkP7S9dHVAhWIOsAKHfTjBSIQFgh8MBE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.healthynutritionguide.info%2Fnutrition%2Farticles%2Fart%2Cthe-history-of-nutrition-science.pdf&usg=AFQjCNEpRbCoi0rdlRYhk-V2QQm5EdrzJg
FAO (2000). The state of food insecurity in the world. Retrieved from ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/x8200e/x8200e00.pdf
Goldberg, E. (2013). 11 essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. Goodnet. Retrieved from www.goodnet.org/articles/11-essential-vitamins-minerals-your-body-needs
Hameed, S. (2013). Vitamin and mineral deficiencies. [Slideshare]. Retrieved from www.slideshare.net/drshahinhameed/vitamin-mineral-deficiency
Ohlhorst, S., Russel, R., Bier, D., Klurfeld, D., Li, Z., Mein, J., Milner, J. et al. (2013). Nutrition research to affect food and a healthy life span. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98 (2). Retrieved from ajcn.nutrition.org/content/98/2/620.full
The American journal of Clinical Nutrition (2017). What is Nutrition? Retrieved from ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/5/1093.full.pdf+html
USDA (n.d). Estimated calorie needs per day by age, gender and physical activity level. Retrieved from www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/usda_food_patterns/EstimatedCalorieNeedsPerDayTable.pdf