Nutrition is the process of consumption of food and absorption of nutrients in those foods. Components of food like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water which are needed for the maintenance of good health are all considered nutrients. While carbs are the body’s main source of energy, proteins are used to build, maintain, and repair bodily tissues, fats carry fat-soluble vitamins through the body, vitamins are needed for normal cell growth, metabolism, growth, and development, minerals become a part of bones, tissues, and body fluids. Water neither provides energy nor calories but it performs the job of regulating body temperature, lubricates joints, and helps in the absorption of nutrients. Nutrition is very much required for keeping you healthy across your lifespan. In order to get good nutrition, we have to eat natural, healthy foods. Eating foods low in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and high in processed food products, added sugars, and salt will cause you to be deprived of nutrients which may cause nutrient deficiency. Poor nutrition manifests itself as malnutrition. Poor nutrition is a problem that is likely to become more widespread and is arguably the greatest cause of modern-age illnesses. As the impact of poor nutrition is getting more devastating, it’s crucial that we take action to address this issue.
CAUSES FOR POOR NUTRITION
Diet quality and diet composition are critical to health and poor diet quality is implicated to cause poor nutrition that affects overall well-being.
1. Consuming foods that are low in fiber, vitamins, salt, or other nutrients.
2. Medical conditions like nausea, or dysphagia that make eating difficult.
3. Limited access to nutritious foods due to poverty or other reasons.
4. Eating the same food every day can lead to boredom and poor nutrition.
5. Busy lifestyle can lead to reliance on fast foods that are low in nutrients.
6. Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression or periods of extensive emotional stress that can interfere with a person’s appetite.
7. Lack of interest in eating due to changes in appetite, taste, and digestion that people experience with aging.
8. Excessive demand for energy (in the case of surgery, intense physical activity) exceeds the amount of food needed.
10. Dental pain, mouth sores, and missing teeth can make it difficult for the elderly to eat healthy foods.
CONSEQUENCES OF POOR NUTRITION
Poor nutrition can impair an individual’s ability to lead an active lifestyle, result in reduced ability to work, and increase the susceptibility to diseases depending on the nutrients lacking. Poor nutrition can contribute to stress, and tiredness, paving the way to the risk of developing illness. The consequence of poor nutrition does not just affect physical health but also affects mental health.
DECREASED ENERGY LEVELS
Chronically low energy levels are one of the common health issues that are accompanied by feelings of sleeplessness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. With adequate nutrient intake, low energy levels can be prevented. Eating a diet high in whole grains, legumes, cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, and leafy greens contribute to healthy energy levels. On the other hand, eating foods low in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, carbs, protein, and simple starches can lead to insufficient energy levels, leaving you feeling lethargic. B vitamins are needed to convert nutrients into energy, deficiencies of B vitamins are linked to fatigue, iron deficiency manifests as persistent fatigue, and magnesium deficiency compromises cellular energy production. When there is a lack of adequate nutrients, body stores are catabolized to provide energy leading to the depletion of body fat and muscle with consequent symptoms such as fatigue.
Optimal nutrition supports the functions of the immune cells allowing them to initiate effective responses against pathogens. Macronutrients and micronutrients have specific roles in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system. Micronutrients like selenium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and iron have high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacities and play an important role in supporting immune cells and deficiency of these nutrients could increase susceptibility to infectious diseases. Sufficient protein intake is crucial for optimal antibody production, inadequate protein intake may decrease the production of immunoglobulins and increase infection risk.
DISRUPTED SLEEP QUALITY/INSOMNIA
An optimal sleep pattern is an important implication for overall health maintenance. Impaired sleep, insufficient sleep duration, long sleep-onset latency, and sleep impairments have been linked to depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk of mortality. Studies link an association of short sleep duration with the inadequacy of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin A, C, E, K, and D, iron, niacin, phosphorus, selenium, and choline. Carbs and amino acid tryptophan can influence the levels of neurotransmitters of sleep regulation, including serotonin and melatonin secretion.
The rising prevalence of obesity has been described as a global pandemic. As per studies, despite an excess calorie intake, obese individuals have relatively high rates of micronutrient deficiencies. Glucose metabolism and insulin signaling pathways require vitamins and minerals as cofactors. Deficiencies in micronutrients can impair glucose metabolism and cause insulin resistance. Vitamin D inadequacy impairs glucose metabolism and insulin signaling pathways. Chromium deficiency demonstrates insulin resistance, and lower plasma levels of biotin are associated with impaired glucose metabolism. Consuming foods that are low in essential nutrients like fiber, protein, and vitamins, and high in sugar, calories, and fat can contribute to obesity.
Poor nutrition happens to be the most neglected factor for mood disorders. Consuming diets low in carbohydrates tends to precipitate depression since the production of tryptophan and serotonin is triggered by carb-rich foods. Our body needs tryptophan to make serotonin and tyrosine to produce dopamine, deficiency in these amino acids will lead to low mood. Diets lacking fatty acids can lead to considerable disturbance in neural functions and sufficient levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may decrease the development of depression. Folate, chromium, iodine, selenium, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamin deficiency is associated with lowered mood status, causing anxiety, and impairing the body’s response to stress.
POOR HEART HEALTH
Eating suboptimal levels of nutrients is estimated to be associated with the development and progress of heart health risks. A diet high in omega-3 fats, fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in sodium, sugar, and cholesterol is found to support heart health. Diets high in saturated fats have been found to raise the bad cholesterol, and vitamin D deficiency has been associated with arterial stiffness, hypertension, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Magnesium plays an important role in regulating heart health function, potassium is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure. Zinc, copper, selenium, iron, and coenzyme Q10 are required to efficiently convert macronutrients into ATP and a deficiency in these nutrients leads to poor heart health.
WEAKNESS IN OLDER ADULTS
The impact of poor nutrition becomes more pronounced as individual ages. Calcium and magnesium deficiencies can lead to poor bone density, reduced mobility, muscle cramps, and weakness. Vitamin D deficiency can cause muscle weakness and increase the rate of falls in the elderly, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, which can cause fatigue and weakness. Vitamin deficiencies can lead to poor immunity, poor vision, bleeding gums, depression, irritability, and insomnia.
HOW TO ADOPT GOOD NUTRITION?
1. Eat regular meals, including all food groups like whole grains, fiber, legumes, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
2. Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables, and 2 serves of fruit every day.
3. Eat seasonal fruits, snack on healthy foods.
4. Limit salt, sugar, and fats.
5. Aim for adequate hydration.
6. Practice mindful eating.
7. Eat less saturated and trans fats.
8. Beware of the hidden fats and large portion sizes when you eat outside.
9. Explore the possibility of food fortification and avoid fast foods.