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06/28/13

Preventive Medicine Blog Series - Part IV: Nutrition and Nutraceuticals

by Rutvik Joglekar, June 28, 2013

In an attempt to combat poor nutritional practices, it may be wiser to encourage patients to consume nutraceuticals. Nutraceuticals, or foods, beverages, and supplements that provide medicinal benefits, could be used as a tool to preemptively avert the onset of crippling diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Many Americans drink green tea, for example, because they believe it will contribute to weight loss and other health benefits. Despite all the supposed advantages of nutraceuticals, definite research must be conducted to see if certain products can aid in patient health. With the advent of high drug costs and treatment, nutraceuticals may certainly be a more popular and financially feasible option for patients.

Nutrition, merely the consumption of food and beverages for sustenance, undoubtedly has a profound impact on both patient health and communities. Proper nutrition can, as commonly known, prevent or alleviate common ailments and extend a patient's lifespan; but unhealthy diets, often characterized by processed foods and sugary beverages, may entail detrimental consequences.

Commonly referred to as the diseases of affluence by the World Health Organization (WHO), conditions and illnesses triggered by dietary imbalances may bring about severe health problems and cost the healthcare industry billions of dollars. Heart disease alone, for example, kills nearly 600,000 Americans annually and is the consequence of improper nutrition and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the total costs of heart disease to be approximately $108.9 billion.

The importance of nutrition can be highlighted through the active role many governments and organizations play in encouraging proper nutrition. The United States government, for instance, places heavy restrictions on the fast food industry, maintains stringent nutrition label requirements, and mandates health education for all students. Despite these efforts, an epidemic of poor nutritional habits continues; in fact, a new analysis by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that current trends in adult health may lower U.S. life expectancy.

In an attempt to combat poor nutritional practices, it may be wiser to encourage patients to consume nutraceuticals. Nutraceuticals, or foods, beverages, and supplements that provide medicinal benefits, could be used as a tool to preemptively avert the onset of crippling diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Many Americans drink green tea, for example, because they believe it will contribute to weight loss and other health benefits. Despite all the supposed advantages of nutraceuticals, definite research must be conducted to see if certain products can aid in patient health. With the advent of high drug costs and treatment, nutraceuticals may certainly be a more popular and financially feasible option for patients.

Another possible option to explore is the expansion of health education via new channels; although the U.S. government expends a countless amount of resources to create materials for health education, many of their mediums of communication are still fairly limited, schools, online resources, etc. With social media so frequently used, information can quickly be dispersed to large audiences.

In that respect, proper nutritional practices would not only improve the lives of millions of people but save the healthcare industry a myriad of time and money.

(For additional trends in Preventive Medicine see: Here)

Sources
Dollemore, Doug. "Obesity Threatens to Cut U.S. Life Expectancy, New Analysis Suggests, March 16, 2005 Press Release - National Institutes of Health (NIH)." U.S National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health, 16 Mar. 2005. Web. 25 June 2013.

"Heart Disease Facts." CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 June 2013.

"Leading Causes of Death." CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 25 June 2013.