What Are We Eating and Why?

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We could also call this: Introduction to Nutrition

Maybe you’re curious? Maybe you’re taking a nutrition class and need a few pointers? Whoever you are and why ever you’re here welcome! I’ve written below a sweet and simple article about nutrition. It’s not even close to breaking the surface to everything nutrition but it’s a start. Here I’m sure you’ll find everything you need to know about the very basics!

Factors that affect Diet

Personal preference, habit, ethnic heritage, social interactions, availability convenience and economy, positive and negative associations, emotions, values, body weight and image, nutrition and health benefits are all the different factors that effect how a person might choose foods to eat. While each factor can stand alone, many times a food choice is made based on several of these factors. Eating food out of habit may be a factor developed from other factors first because this food may have been originally selected out of convenience and economy by parents of a person during childhood, while it became emotional to continually select the food from childhood because of positive associations. Although these foods may not always be nutritionally healthy to eat, another food may be selected by someone because of it’s benefits and positive associations with lower weight or better body image.

The six major classes of Nutrients

Minerals and water are both inorganic nutrients. Water contains hydrogen and oxygen while minerals contain minerals.

Organic nutrients are Carbohydrates, Lipids (fat), Protein, and Vitamins. Each of these contain hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. Although, proteins also contain nitrogen.

Carbohydrates, lipids and protein all yield energy while minerals, vitamins and water do not.

The scientific method and nutritional research methods

The scientific method is a series of steps used by researchers in order to find answers in our world. This series starts with observations and questions. This then leads to a hypothesis, or tentative solution, and a prediction of how to solve the questions. We then build an experiment in order to study data. After gathering data, we have to interpret it and determine results.

Nutritional researchers can use these epidemiological types of studies to gather data; cross sectional studies (where data is compared to data from separate groups), case-control studies (where peoples of different health but similar age are compared and differences are researched in order to find cause of disease), and cohort studies (where data collected from a group is analyzed over time).

Nutritional researcher use experimental methods to gather data as well; laboratory based animal studies (animals are studies over time while reacting to different nutritional stimuli while being compared to animals without the stimuli), laboratory based in-vitro studies (experiments conducted on reaction of tissue or similar to a stimuli), and lastly human intervention, or clinical trials ( where a subject reports their reaction to stimuli).

Daily Reference Intakes (DRI)

The four categories of the DRI are; Estimated Average Requirements (EAR), Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA),  Adequate Intakes (AI), and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL).

  • Estimated Average Requirements (EAR) determines how much of each nutrient is needed for most people to remain healthy. This number is set in the middle of a bell graph if one were made where population number is the y axis and number of daily intake of a nutrient as measured by unit. Although some fall above and below this line, it represents the ideal intake for the absolute average.
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) is the recommended amount of a nutrient intake for everyone in the population. This number is set high enough to encompass almost everyone with few outliers higher. This category for DRI was established because EAR does not include the higher nutrient intake needing people, which is half of the healthy population.
  • Adequate Intakes (AI) numbers are determined when an EAR number cannot be established. This is because the amount of a nutrient needed for most people is not understood through research. The AI number comes from the normal intake of the nutrient by healthy individuals and is considered adequate for most people.
  • Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) are the number of units of a nutrient consumed where it can be toxic. These levels are beyond any DRI levels, their existence should be recognized and exist for all nutrients (including water).

Nutritional Assessments

Historical information, Anthropometric measurements, Physical examinations, and Laboratory tests are administered in order to assess a person’s energy and nutrient needs.

  • Historical information is key to revealing factors that may be effecting a persons health relating to diet. Factors include socioeconomic standing, family history of disease, drug use and even marital status and education level.
  • Anthropometric measurements are those like weight and height. These are taken periodically and are compared to previous measurements. This data can be used to see trends in health related to height and weight.
  • Physical examinations require an assessment of specific body parts like hair, nails, teeth and skin. The examiner must have knowledge as to what to look for because some conditions are indicators of different diseases.
  • Laboratory tests such as blood and urine, uncover signs of diseases by measuring the amount of nutrients in the person. The amounts of nutrients together can give an idea to the physician about the subjects health.

 

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