The Power of Nutrition – How Food Determines Our Health


Health Professionals are facing a global problem: despite their huge individual efforts
and the progress of modern medicine, chronic so called non-communicable diseases
can’t be treated adequately. Conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes
and cancer are responsible for more than 50% of all healthy
life years lost and almost 70% of all deaths globally,
while as well contributing to up to 80% of our ever-rising healthcare spending. Populations of the so-called blue zones
seem to be an exception. Why do they show such a remarkably high number
of healthy and active people above the age of 90? Could it be their shared lifestyle habits,
among them a diet centered around whole plant foods? Nutrients in our food
sustain and affect all of our body’s functions. They let us grow tissue, burn energy
and provide specific components for millions of actions and pathways. But food is more than a mere substrate for
hardware and energy supply – it even runs our software. As ligands for transcription factors,
nutrients directly alter gene expression, activating or silencing genes,
which are, for example, involved in aging and cancer formation. These epigenetic changes happen as early as
in the womb, determining later health outcomes such as
obesity or diabetes. And the epigenetic influence remains powerful
throughout life. A comparison of populations with similar genes
but different diets showed that even with genetic predispositions
for certain diseases, lifestyle factors play the bigger role for
health. Diet also determines our microbiome,
the trillions of microbes in our gut. Because they take part in our metabolism,
immune system and brain function, our health relies on their composition. A diet low in plant fiber and high in animal
protein, for example, changes the constitution of our microbiome
in a way that has been suspected to trigger inflammatory
disease. By influencing these core mechanisms, nutrition
determines our health. Studies show that people who follow plant-based diets have a 60% reduction in the risk of type 2
diabetes, more than a 50% reduction in cardiovascular risk, up to a 19% lower cancer risk,
and a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality compared to omnivores. Randomized controlled trials not only detected
a decrease in risk factors like LDL cholesterol, inflammation markers and high blood pressure,
but showed the possibility of even reversing chronic conditions like diabetes and coronary heart disease. This is just a glimpse into the potential
of nutrition. The bottom line is this:
Only a few lifestyle risk factors account for up to 80% of premature deaths. The major risk factor for dying early and
losing quality of life is a poor diet. Let’s turn this around! Learn more about the Power of Nutrition
to address the root causes of chronic medical conditions at pan-int.org. Join the Physicians Association for Nutrition
to bring healthy nutrition to the core of healthcare systems and communities.

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