Nutrition Security: The Essence

“A hungry man can’t see right or wrong. He just sees food”. Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)

Now, it gets more interesting to know that though food security being a threat to adequate nutrition, there is a much more destructive underlying factor to the risk of malnutrition across all ages, this factor being “Nutrition Security”.

We will take baby-steps to understand this together…

What is malnutrition?

It is a condition that develops when the body lacks enough nutrients to maintain healthy tissues and normal functions. It results from having too little, too much or an imbalanced intake of the full set of both macronutrients e.g. carbohydrates, protein and fats and micronutrients e.g. vitamins and minerals required for good health.

What is Nutrition Security?

To impact a clear understanding of this topic issue, I want you to fall in line with the root word ‘nutrition’. Nutrition is the science of acquiring, consuming (eating, digesting and absorbing) of foods (both plant and animal sources) for the purpose of maintaining health and normal body functions. 

Did you notice i said ‘science’?

Yes, science i.e. a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject, of which in this case is “Nutrition”. There is the certain need for nutrition education. Effective nutrition education involves:

  • Knowledge of foods
  • The best preparation methods and recipes for the foods
  • The recommended portion sizes
  •  The nutrient content/value) of the choice foods
  • The awareness of drug-nutrient interactions.

Nutrition security is defined…
According to Food & Nutrition dictionary, as having different kinds and categories of diet that will provide all essential nutrients. By all means, it is important to note that a people can dwell in abundance of food and yet not be “nutrient secure” due to lack of the needed nutrition education, knowledge or awareness.

Hence, we can tackle this problem of nutrition security by the following ways:-

Involving nutrition education earlier in life

There is need to start teaching children about nutrition from an early age, both at home and in school academic curriculum. For instance, most kids do not eat vegetables for some reasons best known to them. Personally while growing up, I and my siblings when presented with a bowl of vegetable soup and a plate of garri, we would rather dip in the garri into the soup or at worst, chew the prepared garri (Eba) in an attempt to finish up the garri as fast as possible, this is so we could go back to playing.

Parents and guardians can help save the situation, by making eating time a happy time. This helps get children involved in the cooking process, thereby making them find food and its preparation exciting. Remember it is always easier to eat what one was involved in cooking. While cooking, the children can be better informed about the nutritional value of the ingredients and condiments used in the food preparation. Children are stronger visual learners; they follow closely what they see parents doing, so be sure to set good eating habits.

Proper cooking methods

There are some cooking methods that tend to destroy the nutrients available in foods or render them unavailable for proper body absorption. For instance, over-cooking vegetables especially in high temperature can make the heat labile nutrients present in it to be destroyed. Or worse still, cutting the vegetables before washing as most Nigerians do, causes the highly water soluble vitamins and minerals to be lost to the washing water – “Green water” lol, which is usually thrown away. Steaming is one cooking method that helps retain most or all the nutrients in food – Steaming works by boiling water continuously, causing it to vaporize into steam; the steam then carries heat to the nearby food, thus cooking the food. The food is kept separate from the boiling water but has direct contact with the steam, resulting in a moist texture to the food. It is important to note that steaming reduces vitamin C by 15%, and boiling reduces it by 25%. Example of foods that can be steamed is vegetables, moimoi, and most seafoods etc.

Recipes originated from the urge to explore cuisines and tickle the taste buds. It is a tested and standardized procedure for preparing food in which the ingredients to be used, their proportion, order of mixing and the time and temperature for cooking have all been worked out to produce a uniform and tasty product, if any of the above is not met it might lead to an undesirable outcome, making food less appealing to both young and old.

Nutrient content of foods

This factor can be better understood in our previous post on Nutritional labelling. Well, the need to know what nutrients are available in the food we are about to consume cannot be overemphasized. The need to know is prime.

Drug has an effect on the foods we eat

There are many dramatic results and problems that may be caused by food-drug, drug-drug, and alcohol-food-drug interactions, and these vary from person to person. Drug-nutrient interactions involve changes to a drug caused by a nutrient, or changes to a nutrient as a result of the drug. Food-drug interactions is a broader term that describes the effects of a drug on nutritional status. Each of these interactions may lead to many complications.

Effects of Food on Drug Intake

Drug Absorption: Food or nutrients in the stomach or intestine may act to reduce the absorption of a drug by delaying digestion, binding to minerals found in the food, or adhering to food particles. In other cases, the food may promote drug absorption.

Drug Breakdown: Food may act to enhance or inhibit the metabolism of certain drugs in the body.

Drug Excretion: Food and nutrients may act to alter the reabsorption and excretion of drugs from the kidney.

Other Actions: Certain food components can lead to the enhancement or opposition of the effects of some drugs. Some examples of food and constituents found in food include: vitamins, minerals, fat, proteins, caffeine, or alcohol.

Effects of Drugs on Food and Nutrition

Nutrient Absorption: Certain drugs may increase, decrease, or prevent nutrient absorption in the gut.

Nutrient Breakdown: Drugs may speed up the metabolism of certain nutrients, resulting in higher dietary requirements of that particular nutrient.

Nutrient Excretion: Drugs can increase or decrease the urinary excretion of nutrients.

Side Effects of Drugs and Other Medications

Taste and Smell Alterations: Some drugs may alter one’s ability to taste and smell certain foods. Food intake may be affected due to alteration of taste sensation, reduced acuity to taste, or undesirable aftertaste.

Gastrointestinal (GI) Effects: Some drugs can cause irritation to the digestive tract that includes stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, and gastric bleeding. Some drugs may alter gastric acidity and damage mucosal surfaces leading to decreased nutrient absorption.

Appetite Changes: Alterations in appetite may include suppression or stimulation of hunger leading to weight loss or weight gain.

Organ Toxicity: Since many drugs must pass through the liver and kidney upon excretion, hepatotoxicity (liver damage) and nephrotoxicity (kidney damage) are of primary concern.

Metabolic Effects: Some drugs may affect blood glucose levels by stimulating the production of glucose or inhibiting its uptake. Other drugs may inhibit insulin secretion decrease insulin sensitivity, or increase insulin clearance from the blood. This may lead to conditions known as hyperglycemia (high blood glucose), hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), or diabetes. Other medications may lead to abnormal lipid levels, causing elevated cholesterol or triglycerides.