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Cheat Sheet

Clinical Nutrition For Dummies

From Clinical Nutrition For Dummies by Michael J. Rovito

Clinical nutrition is the study of the connection between your body’s overall state of wellness and the foods you eat each day. If you go beyond the details of how diet affects health — how particular nutrients can produce particular health outcomes or what kind of diet most effectively helps you reduce your risk of developing diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, hypertension, and so on — you realize that what you eat really matters. This cheat sheet identifies the diseases that wise dietary decisions can help you avoid, explains what researchers say about common dietary supplements, and introduces you to health behavior terms all clinical nutritionist should know.

8 Diseases You Can Avoid through Good Dietary Habits

A poor diet — one that is high in fat and sugar and low in fiber and nutrients —puts you at risk of developing a variety of preventable diseases and health conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. The following table summarizes some of the most prominent health risks associated with poor dietary habits, identifies the dietary component that increases your risk, and offers some tips on how you can change your diet to reduce your risk.

Health Issue Description Dietary Component That Puts You at Risk Ways to Reduce Risk
Anemia Deficiency of red blood cells Lack of iron Eat lean protein sources, such as shellfish, red meat (occasionally), oatmeal, and beans/legumes.
Goiter An enlargement of the thyroid gland Lack of iodine Eat eggs, dairy, seafood, and iodized salt.
Neural tube defect Defects, such as spina bifida, caused when the brain and spinal cord do not develop properly in the growing fetus Lack of folic acid in a pregnant woman’s diet Eat whole grains or fortified sources of carbohydrates (wheat flour, for example) or take a prenatal vitamin that has all the essential B vitamins.
Rickets (children) or Osteomalacia (adults) Softening of bones due to poor calcification (in children resulting in distorted bones and bow legs) Lack of vitamin D, calcium, and/or phosphorus Eat dairy products and leafy, green vegetables.
Celiac disease A gluten intolerance (gluten is a kind of protein found in wheat and other grain products that produces the elastic texture in dough) Ingesting products that contain gluten Avoid foods with gluten, such as wheat, rye, and barley.
Acne A skin condition caused by an overproduction of sebum, a natural oil produced by hair and skin Usually hormonal, but outbreaks triggered by certain dietary habits, such as eating refined sugars (elevated blood sugar has been shown to increase risk of acne) Avoid foods that can spike your blood sugar.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) A condition in which the force of the blood bumping through your arteries is higher than normal, leading to coronary heart disease, heart and kidney failure, and stroke A diet high in fat and salt Reduce your intake of fat (specifically saturated and trans-fats) and salt. Follow the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension), which focuses on fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
Type 2 diabetes A potentially life-threatening condition in which your body either doesn’t use insulin efficiently or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood-glucose level A diet high in sugar and fat Refrain from over consuming sugars and other refined carbohydrates, and exercise (proper amounts of exercise help regulate blood glucose levels).

4 Common Supplements: What Research Says about Their Uses and Effectiveness

Many people take supplements to ensure that they’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals and to improve their health. Yet many researchers are on the fence about just how beneficial supplements are and, even more importantly, how safe they are.

The following sections identify four of the more popular supplements — multivitamins, fish oil supplements, meal replacers, and energy drinks — explain what each is used for, and summarize what the science says about each supplement’s effectiveness and safety.

Before taking any supplement, consult your physician. He or she can give you answers to these very important questions:

  • Do you need the supplement?

  • Is the supplement safe?

  • What is the appropriate amount to take?

  • Do nutrition experts have any concerns about the supplement’s effectiveness?

Multivitamins

Individuals usually take multivitamins as insurance against future diseases ranging from the cold and flu to cancer. Using what is often called a “shotgun approach” to wellness, many people take a bunch of supplements to avoid as many health issues as possible.

Healthy individuals who eat a lean, balanced diet typically do not need to take supplements. However, supplements may be necessary for those with certain health conditions, such as an inability to process certain dietary nutrients, in which case. The supplement is used to augment the diet.

Relatively little or no harm comes from taking multivitamin supplements.

Fish oil

Individuals take omega-3 fatty acid supplements because their anti-inflammatory effects are believed to help reduce risks of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, reduce overall cholesterol, and decrease the risk of cancer.

Research is spit on the effectives of these supplements:

  • Some research indicates that omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and may, therefore, provide some protection against cardio- and cerebrovascular disease, high cholesterol, and cancer.

  • Other research suggests that the supplement offers no benefit over a balanced diet that includes appropriate amounts of actual fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, specifically).

In addition, recent research suggests that up to 30 percent (perhaps more) of these supplements are mislabeled or are of low quality (some of the supplements that were tested had spoiled, for example, and others had less than the advertised amounts of omega-3s).

Meal replacers

Meal replacers are usually presented as a powder form and mixed with water or milk to create a smoothie or drink of some sort. Individuals who are on weight-loss programs consume these in place of actual meals to assist with weight loss.

If consumed appropriately and in conjunction with an exercise program that burns sufficient calories, people who eat meal replacers can increase their chances of losing weight. However, many treat the meal replacers as beverages to drink with a meal and, as a result, end up gaining weight.

Over consuming meal replacers or consuming them in addition to an actual meal can result in toxicity issues with certain nutrients, particularly the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Furthermore, many meal replacers are not regulated by a nutritional assessment board for either effectiveness or safety.

Energy drinks

Individuals consume energy drinks to feel more energized throughout the day or to achieve enhanced performance. Yet no research exists that proves energy drinks work both effectively and healthily.

Energy drinks typically come in one of two varieties — caffeine-based and B-vitamin–based. Here’s what the research says about their effectiveness and safety:

  • Caffeine-based: These supplements can actually harm you more than help you.

  • B vitamin-based: Although these don’t present the problems that caffeine-based ones may, their actual effects may not be worth the price you pay for the supplement.

Furthermore, the recommended dosage is determined, not by any nutritional agency (energy drinks are not regulated), but by the manufacturers themselves. More alarmingly, individuals often take more than this recommended amount.

A more effective and healthy way for you to stay active and alert throughout your day is to get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly, eat healthily, and drink plenty of water.

7 Key Health Behavior Terms to Know

According to health behavior theory, sooner or later, the decisions you make now will determine your health and wellness status well into your future. A collection of many variables unique to each individual — his or her perceptions, values, personality, beliefs, habits, cultural influences, family history, and so on — affect disease prevention, health maintenance, and treatment choices.

Nutritionists apply the principles of health behavior theory to help alter their patients’ behaviors related to nutrition and healthy living. The following list introduces some of the key terms and variables that create the foundations of the field:

  • Intention: The will of the individual to eventually perform a behavior.

    According to health behavior theory, a person who intends to do something eventually does it. Therefore, getting a patient to state an intention is a key indicator of whether he or she can successfully make the change. A patient who states that the intention to eat healthily, for example, will, within a specific time period, perform the behavior.

  • Control beliefs: An individual’s perception that he or she can physically perform a behavior.

    If you recommend that a patient eat two servings of vegetables with every dinner, the individual’s control beliefs would include, for example, whether she believes that she can buy the vegetable, prepare it, and then eat it. Such perceptions weigh into the person’s decision to actually adopt the behavior.

  • Normative beliefs: The generally held beliefs in a society.

    Normative beliefs impact how the individual believes his peer group will respond to him when he adopts a given behavior. For example, your patient may want to eat vegetables with every meal, but if his spouse, family, or friends are not supportive, or even overtly oppositional, their opposition can produce conflicting feelings in your patient about whether to eat vegetables or not.

  • Behavioral beliefs: How the individual feels about adopting the behavior.

    Usually called attitude, behavioral beliefs are the core beliefs an individual has about the behavior. For example, does the individual want to actually want to eat vegetables or does she refuse to be told what to do about their health by another person?

  • Perceived severity: The individual’s perception about how serious is the health threat or how negative is the outcome of a given behavior or disease. Behaviors that are perceived to be highly threatening or diseases that are perceived to produce highly negative outcomes are more likely to spur change than those that are perceived to be less threatening or negative.

    Perceived severity has a more powerful influence on behavior than actual severity. If you perceive that smoking cigarettes isn’t dangerous, for example, you’ll smoke, despite how dangerous smoking really is.

  • Perceived vulnerability: How susceptible to the disease a person believes she is.

    If a patient believes that she is highly vulnerable to developing cancer because of her dietary choices, she will be more inclined to change her diet to reduce her risk. If she believes that diet has little impact — that is, her perceived vulnerability to getting cancer due to dietary choices is low — she will be less inclined to adopt healthier dietary choices.

  • Cues to action: A system of reminders an individual uses to spur himself to perform a behavior. Cues to action can take the form of peer support, sticky-notes posted on the refrigerator, and so on.

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