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Food As Medicine Behavior Diet Healthy Living

Energy And Macronutrients Across Lifespan

1 month ago

2275  0
Posted on Apr 19, 2024, 3 p.m.

Current research appears to be taking pointers from the past and is trending toward the concept of food as medicine, which is a philosophy in which food and nutrition are positioned within intervention to support health and wellness that dates back to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates who once said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This powerful quote acknowledges thousands of years ago (420 BC), the importance of eating and how the nutrients in various foods have healing properties was known.

This new paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine from Dr. Heymsfield and colleague Dr. Sue Shapses, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University and Director of the Next Center at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, shares the latest recommendations in the storied history of energy and macronutrient intake with increased clarity for protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and water at various stages in human lifespan. 

"Couple with the amount and pattern of the foods people eat, the primary macronutrients of protein, carbohydrates and fat can shape the major determinates of health throughout the lifespan," said Dr. Heymsfield, who is a professor of Metabolism & Body Composition at Pennington Biomedical. "Even considering the incredible diversity of traits and nutritional needs across the global population, we can potentially provide effective care for all patients, including the growing number of patients with diet-related diseases, so long as we recognize the subtle effects of the key macronutrients."

The authors frequently reference the original historical research for which the paper provides the latest incarnation and related knowledge, primarily focusing on energy and 3 macronutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, and their subsequent substrates: amino acids, glucose, and free fatty acids to show how they can fuel growth and maintenance throughout life. For optimal health, the study provides dietary intake reference for the three macronutrients at the stages of: 0 to 6 months old, 7 months to 1 year old, 1 year old to 3 years, 4-8 years old, 9 to 13, 14 to 18 years old, over 19 years old, as well as additional recommendations for women who are pregnant and lactating. 

The paper also provides recommendations for patients and caregivers on healthy eating patterns consistent with the energy and macronutrient guidelines and includes an online calculator. The energy requirements and multiple micronutrients vary across the 9 life stage groups, and there are overarching nutritional goals for patients when choosing healthy food patterns. While there are also a variety of healthy meal pattern examples, reoccurring component features the inclusion of all types of vegetables, whole fruits, fat-free or low-fat dairy, lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, plant and seafood-based oils, and grains, with at least half of the grains being whole grains. 

The recommendations for incorporating the three main macronutrient groups and micronutrients into our diets at various stages took into account varying financial resources, personal preferences, cultural backgrounds, and ethnic food traditions. The paper provides a structured priority framework that offers insight into diets that can be tailored for specific diet-related chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes or obesity. 

"The legacy of research into dietary nutrition continues to refine what we know about our bodies and the capacity for a tailored diet, featuring key macronutrients to support our long-term health," said Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical Research Center. "Dr. Heymsfield's recent paper in the New England Journal of Medicine is the latest contribution to this research history of contributing to the knowledge base, and further promotes the notion of 'food as medicine' -- delivering the potential to improve health across the lifespan with bespoke, nutrient-rich diets."

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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