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The diseases your diet can save you from

How is it possible people in developed countries are showing up at medical centres with conditions associated with malnutrition?

In Western societies food is plentiful (so much so we waste a lot of it) and health and nutrition information is widely available (Healthy Food Guide is in all the supermarkets).  Yet this paradox of food excess and conditions associated with malnutrition exists.  Just this week I read reports of a spate of scurvy cases in Australia.  Scurvy, being the result of severe and chronic vitamin C deficiency, is historically associated with sailors not having fresh fruit or veg to eat on long voyages.

According to reports, people don’t present with scurvy in wealthy countries because they don’t have enough to eat.  Scurvy even occurs in people with obesity.  The condition develops when people consistently don’t even come close to the recommended 5+ a day servings of fruit and vegetables.  Or you may eat 5+ a day but you overcook vegetables to the point their nutritional value is destroyed.

The paradox is also exemplified in recent research showing a relationship between adolescent obesity and osteoporosis or brittle bones. The reasons for bone loss due in obesity are complex.  For a start, visceral fat secretes substances that cause chronic inflammation which, in turn, creates cells that reabsorb and break down bone, a Science Daily story explains.  On top of that, vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption to build strong bones, is fat soluble and gets trapped in fat cells.  When you throw low muscle mass into the picture, you have a recipe for weakened bone structure.

Here’s some further reading on getting your 5+ a day or making sure you hit your calcium or vitamin D targets.

Date modified: 17 February 2021
First published: Dec 2016


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