16 August 2013 | Column | By Prof. Anjali C. Devi
Disease management has articulated a new platform not just of dietary and nutrient targets, but of individual’s complex relationship to its environmental components ecological, societal and behavioral aspects in relation to chronic diseases beyond causative mechanisms. In many developing countries, food policies remain focused only on under nutrition and are not addressing to prevention of chronic diseases. Latest ideologies stress on preventive and curative measures of chronic diseases and malnutrition. Thus in the present day changing scenario along with nutrition, nutraceuticals and naturals inter play in the disease management process.
Nutrition is considered a major modifiable determinant of chronic disease, with scientific evidence supporting the view that alterations in diet have strong effects, both positive and negative, on health throughout life. Dietary adjustments may not only influence present health, but may determine whether or not an individual will develop such diseases as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes much later in life.
A poor diet may have an injurious impact on health, causing deficiency diseases such as kwashiorkor, heath threatening conditions like obesity and common chronic systemic diseases as cardio vascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. The second component in disease management is nutraceuticals.
Nutraceuticals is the combination of nutrition and pharmaceuticals. They are food products that provide extra health benefits as well as basic nutritional value present in food. Nutraceuticals are being recognized as beneficial in coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Evidences indicate that the mechanistic actions of natural compounds involve biological processes, including activation of antioxidant defenses, signal transduction pathways, cell proliferation and differentiation and reservation of mitochondrial integrity. These properties play a vital role in the protection against the pathologies of numerous age-related or chronic diseases. It is a well-established fact that the nutrients found in foods like fruits and vegetables are responsible for health benefits. For example, lutein and zaxanthin prevent cataracts and macular degeneration; beta-carotene and lycopene protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation damage; lutein and lycopene may benefit cardiovascular health, and lycopene may help prevent prostate cancer. Because of these and other marked health benefits, they must be consumed regularly which will also help to reduce the risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Research has proved foods having phytochemicals provide protection to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Eg. Carotenoids from carrots.
Antioxidants help in avoiding chronic disease’s by preventing oxidative damage in the body.
Many industries manufacture and market the nutraceuticals, where the side effects (especially consumed in large quantities) of these nutraceuticals are not reported or proven. Over the last 20 years, numbers of nutraceuticals available for self-medication or for sale are on the increase. They are dietary supplements –rich in metabolites, vitamins, mineral, herbs and functional foods in their naturally occurring form, essentially part of daily diet and regulate biological process for preventing or controlling disease. Examples of nutraceuticals available in the market are fortified cereals, vitamin and mineral supplements, additional supplements, energy drinks and tablets, foods to reduce cholesterol levels, protein powder, probiotics, sports products. Nutraceuticals must satisfy the safety and efficacy, proper labeling and genuine health claims. The third component is naturals.
Naturals /Naturopathy or Naturopathic Medicine deals with the healing power of nature since it is believed that all healing powers are within human body, indicating that within every human being there is a healing energy which is our immune system. We fall ill only when we go against nature, the course of disease (toxins) is expelled from the body to cure it. The second aspect is that the therapies used to promote this healing are simple, gentle, least invasive and in a most efficient manner. The third premise is that diagnoses and treats the disease. Naturopathy stresses on diagnosing the cause and then treating the disease, they do not go by the manifestations of the disease. Of the several ways naturapathy treatment the most important being nutrition, food, exercise, yoga therapy and lifestyle counseling. .
Naturopathy is fast gaining popularity around world for its safe and effective healing. In Indian homes, home remedies come before going to the doctor. Ailments are believed to be caused by what we eat and don’t eat. Hence a traditional Indian doctor will first make slight adjustment to the diet before prescribing medicine which is the last resort. Hence, the importance of nutrition and food.
There are several naturally found foods in India that aid in strengthening the immune system of the body. For example: Oysters contain selenium which produces cytokinins which in turn help in keeping off illness ; Yoghurt has Live lactobacillus that destroys the bacteria that cause the disease; Green Tea raises the WBC count, Vitamin C rich foods or vitamin C itself produces anti bodies and WBC. Crab contains selenium which strengthens immune system. Garlic contains allacin that helps battle infection, Carrots contain Beta carotene - a phytonutrient, increases T cell production and natural killer cells. Spinach has antioxidants that boosts immune system, SweetPotatoes’contain Beta carotene which guards against infection, Mushrooms have beta glucans protects body from infection, Salmon (a type of fish) contains omega 3 fatty acid helps phagocytes to fight infection. Kivi and Bell peppers are rich in vitamin C fights against viruses. Broccoli has phytonutrients that can stimulates anti-oxidants, Barley has beta glucons known to have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, guards infection. There are foods that help in curing diseases or maintain health are Lemon good forcough, cold and fever.vegetables and fruits rich in fiber (eggplant, squash, broccoli, apples, black berries, cherries), push the indigested matter from intestines, thus prevent digestive disorders like constipation and diverticulosis.Yoghurts with minimum sugar and fat helps in reducing chronic diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.Whole grains can help control blood sugar and reduces colorectal cancer risk. Green tea 5 cups a day reduce cancer risk in women as per Maryland University, USA study. Alcohol, smoking, chewing pan or tobacco are said to cause various types of cancer, consumption of non-vegetarian foods may increase the cholesterol content in people with high cholesterol they are to be avoided by such patients.
The 3 N’s (Nutrition, Nutraceuticals and Naturals) therefore form a major part of disease management process.
About the author
Prof. C. Anjali Devi, Head of the Department of Food Nutrition, Osmania University (OU), Hyderabad is also the executive director of Professional & Allied Studies OU. Prof Anjali Devi elected as Chairperson of Nutrition, Information Technology Services, Vice President of Indian Dietetic Association (Andhra Pradesh Chapter) and Councilor of Indian Red Cross (Vizag chapter).