Feature: Why nutrition is important
Ni Salvador R. Serrano
MANILA, May 18 - Is nutrition really important? We need to explain to ordinary people why nutrition is essential because they need to know how this affects health. Nutrition is the food we eat and how the body uses it, while health is a state of complete physical and mental being and not merely the absence of illness or disease. If we are eating right, this contributes to good health because we are able to provide all the nutrients the body needs.
So what does "good" nutrition mean? Good nutrition is achieved when the body gets all the nutrients it needs in the right kind and amount. This is realized when the body is able to process all the foods and the nutrients are well-utilized by the body’s system.
Malnutrition, on the other hand, is a disorder which you get from eating too little, too much, or not eating the right combinations of food.
We often hear, read about or often talk about nutrients, but what are they? Nutrients are what we get from food that the body needs to grow and repair our cells, provide heat to move, work and play; and regulate body processes.
Energy, like the one produced from fuel to power cars, comes from carbohydrates, fats and protein which provide heat that the body needs to perform basic functions of work and play. Proteins are the building blocks of tissues for growth and development and repair of worn-out cells. Fats or lipids also give energy and help in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Vitamins and minerals solely come from food and are responsible for regulating various body processes. Other essential substances in the diet are water and dietary fiber which are vital in digestion, absorption and elimination of waste from the body.
There is also such a thing as "bad" nutrition. We call this malnutrition. When one eats too much food or the wrong kinds of foods, or too much of one kind of food, there is excess of nutrients. This is overnutrition. When we eat very little, a deficiency develops. This is equally a problem and we call this undernutrition. Too much or too little of anything including food is bad for the body.
Malnutrition still persists in the Philippines. Many people are not eating enough of what they need so they are often sick. Others eat too much and they also get sick. For the entire country, there are many factors that contribute to malnutrition. These include faulty food intake, poor distribution of the food supply, inequitable food distribution among the family members, large family size, and low food expenditure as affected by high prices of food and poor income. There is malnutrition also because of poverty, low education level, urbanization as well as infectious diseases and parasitism due to poor sanitation.
Among Filipino children, the other factors are inadequacy of the diet in terms of quality and quantity, declining breastfeeding practice, improper complementary feeding, and lack of immunization. If mothers are not careful when they are not pregnant and when they do not submit themselves for regular pre-natal check-ups when pregnant, this, too, affects the health of their children.
Malnutrition exists in three forms. One is undernutrition which results from inadequate amount of food for a long period of time. Second is overnutrition which results from a excessive intake of nutrients. An imbalance results from a disproportion of the essential nutrients that one needs. When we eat too many foods with the same nutrients and neglect others that our body needs, an imbalance occurs. For example, too much carbohydrate, too much protein, but too little or inadequate amounts of vitamins from fruits and vegetables is bad for the body.
The kinds of malnutrition are acute and chronic malnutrition. Acute malnutrition refers to one's present state of nutrition as indicated by weight loss, while chronic malnutrition is related to past state of nutrition as indicated by stunting and underweight.
There is also what we call primary and secondary malnutrition. Primary malnutrition happens when a person does not eat enough. Secondary malnutrition is when a person eats enough food but factors like illness and environmental factors affect one’s nutritional status.
In the Philippines, the major nutrition problems are chronic energy deficiency, vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency anemia, and iodine deficiency disorders.
All population groups are affected by malnutrition but most vulnerable are infants, pre-schoolers, and the pregnant and lactating mothers. They are most vulnerable because of changes in their bodies which are related to food intake. Infants and pre-schoolers grow very fast, both physically and mentally; pregnant women experience, body changes due to fetal development in their wombs; and lactating mothers produce milk for their babies.
Malnutrition affects one’s physical and mental development. When a person is malnourished, infections are easily contracted. The body becomes weak, appetite deteriorates and nutrients needed by the body are not absorbed and used efficiently. A sick and malnourished person experiences difficulty in thinking and learning. The child's IQ or intelligence, for instance, relies heavily on the kind and amount of food eaten plus the health condition. So, if a child is slow in learning, moody or inattentive, there is a probability that he or she is malnourished.
Because of malnutrition, we have weak students who do not perform well mentally, while others drop out of classes. Malnutrition also leads to physical weakness, absenteeism, sickness, and death in severe cases. Workers in offices and factories who are malnourished are not as efficient and easily get tired on the job. This leads to low work performance stemming from absenteeism and shortened working hours. Therefore, a weak work force equals weak economy and weak economy equals slow progress of the country.
All of us should be concerned about malnutrition. Malnutrition is a multi-faceted problem so that every sector should contribute to its reduction. Malnutrition is food-related, but there are also other environmental factors aggravating it. One's culture, one's economic state and ecological events like natural and man-made disasters - all directly or indirectly affect the family's nutrition. Fighting malnutrition has been the traditional concern of mothers who are responsible for preparing the family meals everyday. However, women themselves are more affected by malnutrition than men because they give birth year after year and take care of babies one after another, thus becoming more vulnerable to malnutrition. They also produce breastmilk that infants need. Women, too, in developing countries like the Philippines, have multiple domestic or household responsibilities and hardly have enough time to take care of themselves as the husband and children are often their priority concerns.
Achieving proper nutrition:
By instinct and through nutrition program involvement, mothers will know that no single food contains all the nutrients in the amounts that our body needs except breastmilk for infants below six months. Therefore, to be sure that the family gets the nutrients the members need for growth and repair of tissues, for energy and to maintain body processes, the mother should ensure that everyone eats a variety of food in every meal everyday.
Good nutrition means satisfying the needs of each family member. Every member of the family has need for the same nutrients but in varying amounts. From the time a child is born, he or she needs all the nutrients increasingly up to old age. For instance, women need more of iron because of their menstrual periods and because they deliver babies, while men especially teenage boys need more energy for sports and other vigorous activities.
Food means a lot to people aside from nourishment. Food is not only something which we eat to make our bodies full and satisfy hunger. Food also means much more to other people. It carries social and cultural meanings. For example, food can be a sign of wealth and power, a form of celebration, a symbol of love, a status symbol, a reward or punishment, or a religious sacrifice. Thus, we have celebration foods, prestige foods, cultural superfoods like staples, and even sex-linked foods.
Proper food preparation is important in relation to nutrition. The way food is handled, cooked and prepared affects its nutrients, and in the long run, what the body eats and absorbs. There are different ways of preparing food for each family member to make sure they enjoy food and eating. It is also important to consider the likes and dislikes of each member of the family every time a homemaker prepares the meals.
Let us remember that proper nutrition is important because it translates to better health and well-being as well as improved productivity which is vital to economic progress.
For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City; Tel/Fax Num: 8372934 and 8373164; email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; FNRI-DOST website: http://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph. (FNRI-DOST S & T Media Service/PIA-Caraga)
PHO conducts search for Healthy Buntis
By Brian Jay Ceballos
BUTUAN CITY, May 18 (PIA) - Pregnant mothers from all over the province acquired essential knowledge on safe motherhood and newborn care at the Search for the Healthy Buntis of Agusan del Norte here.
Led by the Provincial Health Office (PHO) in partnership with the Department of Health Caraga Region, this year’s activity carries the theme, “Luwas nga Pagmapdos ug Pagpanganak Pangandaman ug Husto.”
PHO chief Dr. Elizabeth N. Campado said the event seeks to promote greater awareness among pregnant and “would be pregnant” mothers on maternal and infant health, Safe Pregnancy, Delivery and Post Partum Care.
Participants also gained knowledge on the importance of giving birth in accredited health facilities, being made aware of the risks of giving birth at home or in unlicensed facilities, among other requirements.
The program also featured selected pregnant women from all over the province who participated in the search for the healthiest buntis of Agusan del Norte, walking the ramp in their elegant attires.
Ms. Aime Leah D. Autor from the municipality of Carmen was awarded and crowned the Most Healthy Buntis of 2014. (LGU-Agusan del Norte/PIA-Agusan del Norte)