...it's grey, blurry and complex!
When people find out I am studying nutrition, one of the first things they ask me is:
Is [insert food] good for you?
Let me give you an example; is honey good for you?
My answer: it depends.
If you mean the stuff you buy in the supermarket in that plastic bottle then the answer is probably no. If you mean the honey that is raw organic honey then the answer is generally yes. However, your body still detects honey as sugar spiking blood sugar levels and increasing insulin levels. Therefore, it should be used sparingly, and in moderation.
How about weight loss?
Another example where the study of nutrition can be complicated is regarding weight loss. It is not as simple as calories in and calories out. Obesity is multi-factorial. Growing evidence suggests that, over long periods, diet composition may be more relevant to weight loss than calories. This is because of the varied influences of different foods on overlapping pathways for weight control such as satiety, hormones, glycaemic responses, gut microbiome, thyroid and liver function.
Not so simple right?
Nutrition is never a straight forward concept. Unlike medical studies, it is not black and white – it is in between - it’s grey, blurry and very complex. As a pharmacist studying nutrition – I would definitely say nutrition is by far more complex! Nutrition looks at physiology, biochemistry, genetics, immunology and the different systems in the body including gastrointestinal, endocrine and nervous system.
Nutritional sciences is a new field and still in its infancy. For example macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and proteins) weren’t even discovered until the mid-1800s. The first vitamin was isolated and chemically defined in 1926. It’s only in the last 20-30 years that we’ve begun research on the role of nutrition in complex non-communicable chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and cancers.
Another factor to take into consideration is that nutritional sciences focuses more on a personalised approach to health. We are all individuals. We are genetically and bacterially different from each other. This means our bodies have its own unique set of requirements in order to function at its optimum level. What we eat and how we function at a biochemical level directly impacts how we feel - mentally, emotionally and physically - and this is different for everyone.
Response to food is variable and has multiple forms. These include differential responses in food allergies or intolerances (for example lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity) and various other key factors including age (elderly, child, adult), stage of life (pregnant, lactating), gender, disease or health status, ethnicity, and cultural or religious backgrounds.
No ONE food is inherently good for us, as no individual food is nutritionally whole, but it is the COMBINATION of foods that make up our overall diet that is vital for us.
The point I am trying to make is that nutrition is complex and messy. But in a good way. It illustrates the very nature (and beauty) of the scientific process.
My aim for this blog is to highlight the latest research in nutritional sciences and make it accessible and easy for you to understand, in order to be empowered to take control of your health!