Nutrition in focus

Delve into the role of nutrition in the pandemic and beyond

Nutrition is often concurrently perceived as dieting. While diet or eating pattern is a major aspect of nutrition, it isn’t limited to undergoing restrictions in food intake contrary to what some may believe.

Nutrition per se is the process of ingesting food for sustenance, growth, development, energy production, and repair. It involves many stages from the time we put food into our mouth to digestion or breakdown of nutrients, their absorption, transport to all parts of the body, assimilation, and finally excretion through the stool, urine, and sweat.

It isn’t simply about eating food but also how it is being used up by the body. Deficiencies and imbalances due to malnutrition (undernutrition and overnutrition) will lead to significant threats to human health.

The World Health Organization states that nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to maternal, infant and child health, stronger immune system, safer pregnancy and childbirth, longevity, and lower risk of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer. A cancer patient does not perish due to the disease itself. Rather the cause is due to the patient’s weakened immunity and its inability to fight cancer cells due to malnutrition. After all, how can the body’s army fight when there is no food?

The chairperson for the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines (NDAP) Annual Conference 2022, Juvy Sy, RND-RDN, gives us an overview of nutrition in relation to the pandemic and other nutrition-related concerns.

When asked about how registered nutritionist dietitians (RNDs) can help in COVID-19 management, Sy highlights how malnutrition negatively affects the immune system’s functionality, impairing protection from infections. This calls for the RNDs’ role in the core of COVID-19 management through medical nutrition therapy. It also prevents further risk for complications and improve identified clinical nutrition deficiencies and toxicities.

 “Every RND has a great contribution to food sustainability during the pandemic in different fields of practice by being the lead in market order, menu planning, ensuring a nutrient dense diet, and controlling wastage in the food production system,” Sy says.

‘Every RND has a great contribution to food sustainability during the pandemic in different fields of practice by being the lead in market order, menu planning, ensuring a nutrient dense diet, and controlling wastage in the food production system.’

This pandemic has greatly affected mental health and one’s nutritional status is one of the culprits. “There was a study on understanding nutrition, depression, and mental illnesses by Rao, et al. The diets of patients suffering from mental disorders are related to the severity of deficiency in nutrients, especially essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have indicated that daily supplementation of vital nutrients are often effective in reducing patients' symptoms. Supplements containing amino acids have also been found to reduce symptoms, as they are converted to neurotransmitters, which in turn alleviate depression and other mental health problems,” the Philippine-registered and US-registered dietitian says.

Unfortunately the digital era has paved the way for many to resort to getting wrong nutrition information, which can be detrimental to health. Sy shares about the current nutrition-related issues that need to be addressed. She says, “The remarkable current nutrition-related issues are focused on self-management of diabetes, kidney, heart problems, and weight through the application of fad diets and wrong doses of nutritional supplements by exploring different websites related to food and nutrition. These practices will lead to malnutrition, toxicity, and deficiencies of nutrients, extreme weight gain, and weight loss of every individual.”

She emphasizes the two types of diets that are still popular nowadays. RNDs have a part in motivating Filipinos to learn and appreciate the plant-based way of eating as part of a healthy lifestyle, a practice supported by scientific evidence to prevent and manage specific clinical condition. “Plant-based nutrient sources complement the nutrients lacking from animal sources.”

Her stand on the ketogenic diet is based on recent ongoing studies to learn its applicability to other medical conditions. “At present, ketogenic diet is solely effective in the management of pediatric epilepsy,” she says.

What lies ahead in the field of nutrition and dietetics? The future of nutrition is here. Current nutrition trends have emerged in terms of innovation through nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics. “Nutrigenomics provides a genetic understanding for how common dietary components affect the balance between health and disease by altering the expression and/or structure of an individual’s genetic makeup while nutrigenetics is characterized by the genetic profile impact on the response of the body to bioactive food components by influencing their absorption, metabolism, and site of action,” said Sy.

This year, the PRC Accredited Integrated Professional Organizations (AIPO) – Nutritionist Dietitians Association of the Philippines under the presidency of Zenaida F. Velasco is taking the lead in educating Filipinos through the NDAP 2nd Virtual ANCON with the theme: Leading with Impact F.A.S.T. (Fast Innovation. Agility. Sustainability. Transformation)

Lastly, Sy reminds us to be vigilant and cautious against self-nutrition management. “Please find a credentialed RND. We are here to assist you in leading the right pathway and providing you with the right medical nutrition therapy and nutrition wellness that will increase your diet adherence. We are here to lead everyone with impact to our old food beliefs through fast innovation, being agile to your culture in applying proper dietary lifestyle to achieve sustainability and transformation of oneself to a healthy individual and community.”

Visit NDAP Annual Convention 2022 on Facebook to know more about nutrition related topics.