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Discussing the Fundamentals - Week 1

For the next few weeks I am going to share with you the discussions that were made in one of my nutrition classes. This first discussion was regarding Nutrition and it's relationship to Optimal Wellness. The Second topic deals more with certain diets and plans comparing them to the USDA guidelines.

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What is optimal nutrition? With a look at the USDA’s guidelines - I do not believe them to be optimal. But how do we know what optimal intakes are? Here’s what one article stated: “the whole concept of optimal nutrition is very new and nutritional sciences are still generally focused on the minimal target for a general population that will prevent the classic nutritional deficiency diseases (Shao et al., 2017) Suboptimal intakes have been defined as those associated with abnormalities of metabolism that can be corrected by supplementation with that vitamin (Fletcher, & Fairfield, 2002). Those abnormalities can be quite subtle, and not necessarily associated with obvious health problems. If it is possible, as some recent studies have shown, to beneficially change basic physiological processes like energy metabolism or cerebral blood flow simply by giving higher than DRIs of vitamins and other micronutrients to ostensibly healthy members of the population, then it must be that their nutritional status is inadequate for optimal functioning, and by extension, the nutritional status of the population from which they were drawn (Kennedy et al., 2016). Indeed some researchers have suggested that when attempting to determine optimal nutrition, psychological response to nutritional supplementation is the ultimate indicator of nutritional adequacy. This is because the brain is the most complex and metabolically active organ of the body, and as such might be the first organ to display a negative response to minor nutritional inadequacies. Meta-analyses consistently show that cognition in children and mood and memory in adults can be improved with high dose multivitamin and mineral supplementation (Benton, 2013). If in future iterations of DRIs reviewers considered studies of nutritional requirements for optimal mental processing and cognitive health the most sensitive -indicators for establishing new nutritional guidelines, we would, in my opinion, have made a major step towards defining optimal intakes” (Buford-Mason, 2017).

How does optimal nutrition contribute to a person’s wellness, it seems eating a diet when you eat more vegetables and less processed foods you have a better chance of reducing age associated cardiac disease. “Research suggests that dietary patterns associated with a reduced risk of chronic age-associated disease are vegetable and fruit heavy (therefore phytonutrient rich) but reduced in meat, refined grains, saturated fat, sugar and salt [122]” (Shao, Drewnowski, Willcox, et al. 2017).

One of the highly regarded “optimal” nutrition diets is the Mediterranean diet. “Recently, several studies have shown that a strict adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern is associated with a lower incidence of mortality and incidence of chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Meta-analyses conducted by our group have revealed, in a population of over than 2 million of people, that adherence to Mediterranean diet determines a significant reduction on the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular accidents” (Sofi, Dinu 2016).

As indicated by this image, optimal nutrition helps slow the aging process and preserves and promotes functional activity. (Shao, Drewnowski, Willcox, et al. 2017). Eating a more diverse whole foods diet is important for us to live a more full life. I believe as nutritionists we will run into the mindset problem. The mindset of what food really is. We turn to food for pleasure and for comfort. We need to realize food is medicine and is what we have to consume to fuel our bodies. Just as if we were putting fuel into a vehicle, our bodies need fuel to live and thrive.

First thing I would like to say is the MyPlate plan is a huge step up from the Food Pyramid I grew up with.

That being said I don’t think the MyPlate plan is enough. Taking a look at the calorie bracket for 1600 calories ages 14+ it says a person should get 1.5 servings of fruits, 2 cups of veggies, 5 ounces of whole grains, 5 ounces of protein, 3 cups of dairy. It shows limitations and other recommendations. It’s missing - Water, Healthy Fats and more veggies in my humble opinion.

As I mentioned above, the Mediterranean Diet is considered to be a great diet to follow… so let’s see how it compares. “A traditional Mediterranean-based diet contains high intakes of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and whole grain cereals [1]. Red and processed meats, dairy products, and sweets are limited, while fish and poultry are encouraged in moderation. Extra virgin olive oil is the primary dietary fat, and red wine is preferred in moderation with meals, respecting social beliefs. The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) was first identified as one of the healthiest patterns of eating in the Seven Countries Study: when extra virgin olive oil was the primary dietary fat, all-cause and coronary heart disease death rates were lowest [2]. More recently, it has been observed that adherence to a MedDiet is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk [3] and overall mortality [4], prevention and control of type II diabetes [5], and decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome [6]. The MedDiet was added to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a recommended healthy food pattern to increase overall health [7]. More recently, the MedDiet was named the Best Diet of 2019 by U.S. News & World Report [8] and has been promoted by the American Heart Association for reduction of stroke risk [9] for its similar benefits to the DASH diet [10], while the American Diabetes Association [11,12] recommends a MedDiet for the prevention and treatment of type II Diabetes [13,14] (Knight, Jackson, Rahman, Burnett, Fruge, Green,


That pretty much sums it up.

While I think the USDA program is a good start and could help so many people it is missing some fundamental ingredients. The MedDiet has so many benefits, in a world with ever changing nutrition studies it seems to be a good diet to stick to for the overall benefits. It even includes living life with a little wine.


Burford-Mason A. Optimal Nutrition and Chronic Disease Prevention: A Clinical Perspective. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. 2017;32(5):1.

Shao A, Drewnowski A, Willcox DC, et al. Optimal nutrition and the ever-changing dietary landscape: a conference report. European Journal of Nutrition. 2017;56:S1-S21. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1460-9.

Sofi F, Dinu MR. Nutrition and Prevention of Chronic-degenerative Diseases. Agriculture and Agricultural Science Procedia. 2016;8:713-717. doi:10.1016/j.aaspro.2016.02.052.

Knight CJ( 1 ), Jackson O( 1 ), Rahman I( 1 ), Burnett DO( 1 ), Frugé AD( 1 ), Greene MW( 1,2 ). The mediterranean diet in the stroke belt: A cross-sectional study on adherence and perceived knowledge, barriers, and benefits. Nutrients. 11(8). doi:10.3390/nu11081847.

#Nutrition #optimalwellness #mediterraneandiet #slowaging #agingbackwards #myplate #morewater #water #drinkwater #eattherainbow #eatvegetables #wholefoods #foodpyramid #nutritionist

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