Human health is individually and in many respects determined not only by the genotype, but also by habits, sleep, lifestyle, and ecology. Nutrition plays a special role, as the composition of food in its own way affects the body. Unbalanced nutrition is a global problem of the XXI century, leading to many diseases, so today everyone should know the basic principles of forming a healthy diet, taking into account the individual characteristics and needs of your body.

Introduction to Nutrition

The diet of the modern person is quite monotonous and is a standard set of products and ready meals. For all this, high-calorie foods, poor in vitamins and nutrients, saturated with “fast” carbohydrates with a high glycemic index are eaten. Even those who consider their food rational and healthy probably compare it with the average - and this is not quite true.

A lot of nutritional advice, telling you what foods are "good" and "bad", you can see from pages and the TV screen. Which one is correct? The only one thing is clear: something wrong with the modern diet. The number of people suffering from the consequences of their daily menu in the world has increased to epidemic proportions. Statistics from the world health organization reports about disappointing estimates over the last ten years the number of people overweight rose from 19% to 23%, and these numbers continue to grow. Poor nutrition causes development of many diseases: obesity, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, pathologies of the cardiovascular system, cancer, and many other. This led to the formation of a new science — nutrition — studying the role of food in the development of disease and maintaining health.

The composition of any products includes nutrients (from the Latin. Nutritio - nutrition) - inorganic and organic food substances that the body uses to regulate physiological and biochemical functions, renewal of tissues and cells, and energy. Such substances are proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and others. Those who unequivocally declare the dangers of fats and carbohydrates and directly indicate them as the culprits of diseases, don’t take into account that they play an important role in human survival. Experts advise not to brand these sources of calories in advance, but to begin to figure out what types of harmful and beneficial carbohydrates, proteins, fats and other nutrients exist.

In addition, the food acts on each differently. What seems healthy for one person may be detrimental to another. For example, everyone knows about the benefits of milk - a source of calcium, vitamin D and protein, but with age, most of people simply cease to absorb it. This condition is called lactase deficiency, which has a significant part of the population (for example, almost all Chinese after 30 years can not tolerate lactose).

The human digestive system is individual and is adapted only to certain types of food.  And yet one thing is true: the more natural the way of nutrition, the more benefit it brings.  This does not mean that you only need to eat cereals and raw food, as our distant ancestors did. In fact, you simply need to know the capabilities and needs of your body, then you can keep the digestive system in good shape so that it will function smoothly for many years.

What does healthy digestion depend on?

For many years, the work of the human digestive system was perceived mechanically: the body takes food, crushes it into pieces, extracts calories and nutrients, and removes the rest from the body. This is too simplistic understanding, because the digestive system (also known as the digestive tract) is much more complex than a food processing machine.

As scientists have found, the gastrointestinal tract has its own nervous system, it contains more immune cells than in the blood and bone marrow (due to the fact that it is the first to be exposed to dangerous microorganisms contained in consumed foods). The gastrointestinal tract is also the largest repository of serotonin: it contains 95% of these signal molecules from the whole organism. Serotonin is needed not only for normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, but also for regulating sleep, appetite, pain sensitivity and mood.  The digestive system is connected to the brain by bundles of nerves, and this is a two-way communication: the hormones and inflammatory signaling molecules produced in the gastrointestinal tract bring signals to the brain, and the hormones created in the brain, transmit signals to the cells of the gastrointestinal tract, determining the nature of their functioning. Therefore, after eating a person can feel nausea, discomfort, or, conversely, a feeling of satisfaction. It can be said that the sensations of the gastrointestinal tract will significantly affect overall well-being, including mood, emotions, and decisions.

It’s known that many microorganisms live inside the digestive tract (there are 100,000 times more of them than people on Earth). Together, they are called intestinal microbiota. Its components - bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi and viruses - help in the digestion of food, the regulation of metabolism, the neutralization of dangerous substances, and the strengthening of the immune system. The development of technologies made it possible to accurately identify and describe such microorganisms: in particular, the large project Human Microbiome played a significant role here, launched in 2007 in order to get a complete picture of the microbial system and understand how it contributes to maintaining human health and  the formation of susceptibility to disease.

To prove the effect of diet on composition of intestinal microbiota, the researchers decided to compare the microflora of one group of children living in rural settings in Burkina Faso, and the other living in an urban environment in Florence. The children of these groups showed a completely different intestinal microbes: the first was dominated by beneficial bacteria, the Bacteroides (the ones that help to extract more food energy), the second — the pathogenic Firmicutes (those that are more prevalent in overweight people). The fact that children of rural Africa ate natural foods: grains, vegetables, sometimes chicken, while the Italian children's diet consisted of pasta, pizza, fizzy drinks, crisps, Breakfast cereals and others. Gut microbiome of the children of the West, formed from such food, according to scientists, it brings great harm, as the triggers allergic reactions, obesity, type II diabetes, autoimmune diseases, mental disorders and many others.

Proponents of low-carbohydrate diets, raw foods, and other fashionable dietetics are often urged to stop eating certain nutrients for the benefit of others, eat less, and exercise a lot to reduce overweight. But human digestion is much more complicated. Intestinal microorganisms determine how exactly appetite will be regulated and energy used, how many calories are stored in the form of fat, and how much the cells will be inflamed. The intestinal microbiota is unique to each and can produce different physiological and psychological reactions.

Food and genes

Currently, the task of researchers is to create the most accurate recommendations on nutrition for each case on the basis of genetic information as well. In this regard, there is a need to consider the interaction of human nutrition with its genes. This has led to the birth of a new science - nutrigenomics, which studies how food and nutrients affect the activity of genes, and helps to determine the early stages of the formation of diseases associated with nutrition. Knowing your genetic profile, a person will be able to take action in advance to protect the body from the development of a pathological condition.

Personalized medicine is gaining momentum. This, in turn, ensures the growth of personalized diets. Today it’s already possible to conduct genetic testing for the formation of a personal diet that will help the body to recover. Thus, genes are able to suggest who can, for example, eat sweets without harm, and who will receive the result in the form of obesity or a heart attack.

To date, scientists can analyze 45 genes that affect the work of internal organs, to prepare a plan for healthy eating. These are only the first, but already successful steps. There are also projects aimed at working with people who are already ill: researchers select individual food to fight diseases such as cystitis and cancer.

Personalized diets based on genetic data can be the key to solving many health problems.

Food and psychology 

Eating disorders may be associated with psychological disorders in humans - it is important to investigate the psychosomatic causes, because this is the subject of study of psychologists and psychiatrists.

One of these disorders is food addiction, in which a person loses control over food intake, cannot stop if even wants to do so. Also, the same areas of the brain are activated as in any other addictive disorders. The researchers concluded that most people get used to foods with a high glycemic load. In addition, a high fat content also contributes to the development of the disease.

Thus, uncontrolled appetite, addiction to food, eating disorders on the background of depression and other disruptions in the normal functioning of the body imply not only referring to a specialist, but also correcting lifestyle: setting goals and motivations, developing a positive attitude, developing a sense of responsibility, self-control, introducing  exercise practice.

It should be said that starting to eat only vegetables abruptly - not only won’t be useful, but also cause the body to experience extreme stress. Therefore, it’s important to move to a healthier menu in small steps. And very soon it will be possible to notice positive changes in your own state. The benefits of optimized, balanced and calculated nutrition that you can get will be worth the effort.

It’s important to take a comprehensive approach to solving nutritional problems. The exact composition of a healthy diet depends on individual needs, but the basic principles of its formation remain common: it’s caloric restriction, reduction in the consumption of animal fats and the introduction of vegetable, reducing the amount of salts and sugars, using fruits and vegetables as a snack. Proper nutrition is the basis of bodily health and well-being. And this is a direct path to longevity and the eternal youth of the body.

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