Nastaran Faghihnia

How Can We Set Ourselves Up for Success? A Hidden Hunger Story

The simple answer is with good nourishment we can see the greatest impact on our health and well-being. Proper nutrition not only prevents malnutrition but maximizes health outcomes. Vitamins and minerals are vital for life. We need these essential nutrients to thrive. They are necessary for energy production, supporting our immune system, building and maintaining healthy cells and tissues, and so much more. They basically support normal body functions and optimal health.

But the reality is Americans are overfed and undernourished. About half of all adult Americans (117 million) have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds (nearly 155 million individuals) are overweight or obese. Despite, public health messages encouraging Americans to eat a healthful, balanced diet that includes a variety of vegetables and fruits (4 – 5 cups every day), the average American falls far short. Three-fourths of the US population (ages ≥ 1 year) do not consume the recommended intake of fruit and 87% do not meet the recommended intake for vegetables. The current dietary patterns are too low in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and too high in refined grains, saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium. Moreover, the eating patterns of many are too high in calories.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee found several nutrients are underconsumed relative to the Estimated Average Requirement or Adequate Intake levels as set by the Institute of Medicine. The committee characterized vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber, potassium and choline as shortfall nutrients. Of these shortfall nutrients, calcium, vitamin D, fiber, and potassium were classified as nutrients of public health concern because their underconsumption has been linked in the scientific literature to adverse health outcomes such as osteoporosis, poor colonic health, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Iron, a shortfall nutrient for adolescent and premenopausal females, is another nutrient of public health concern due to the increased risk of iron-deficiency anemia in this population.

Nastaran Faghihnia
Nastaran Faghihnia
Nastaran Faghihnia, PhD
Senior Associate Director, US Medical Affairs, Nutritionals & GI, Bayer

Our diets have become rich in calories and poor in some essential nutrients. This is sometimes known as - hidden hunger. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies and inadequacies strike at the core of your health. It’s not the hunger feeling as we know it, but the consequences may be profound and long-term. Unlike micronutrient deficiencies that can cause clinically apparent symptoms, micronutrient inadequacies may result in hidden symptoms difficult to detect clinically. Sadly, the low cost of empty calories has made it possible to become undernourished but overfed.

Diets emphasizing a variety of nutrient-dense foods will help ensure optimal intake of these shortfall nutrients. In particular, fruit, vegetables, whole grains and dairy are excellent sources of vitamins A, D, C, folate, fiber, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Additionally, lean meats provide an excellent source of highly bioavailable heme iron. In addition to a healthful diet, fortified foods and dietary supplements can be useful in providing select nutrients that might be inadequate in the diet.

How do we set ourselves up for success? Feed our bodies well for optimal health, wellness and vitality.

For more information, visit: Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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