Nutrition in the 21st Century

By Zimmerman, Philip W. | Nutrition Health Review, Winter 1992 | Go to article overview

Nutrition in the 21st Century


Zimmerman, Philip W., Nutrition Health Review


Predicting the future is not an easy endeavor, and nutrition is no exception. However, it may be of benefit to spot trends which appear to be developing, especially if these trends enable us to take steps which will prepare us to deal with future developments. Which nutritional trends appear to be important in the next century?

A. Designer Foods. There is a unique alliance between nutritionist, chemists, botanists and physicians to help "design" new food which will either:

1. Increase health giving benefits known to exist in certain foods.

2. Reduce detrimental factors found in foods we eat.

An example of the first type is the attempt to identify cancerfighting aspects of certain vegetables. The second type of alteration is exemplified by production of eggs with reduced cholesterol content. We can expect to see more attempts to produce such "designer foods."

A word of caution: The public should insist on extensive testing before widespread use of such new foods is permitted. At present, the broad outlines of the "food and health" connection are becoming increasingly clear. To be avoided are artificial substances as well as excessively processed and refined foods. Highly nutritious foods are vegetables, especially those rich in beta-carotene, natural fiber, whole grains, and members of the cabbage family. If nature can be "coaxed" to produce more protective foods, we should applaud this step. Prudent investigation can assure us of the safety of these "improved" foods.

B. Nutrients Against Disease. The future will justify the efforts of those pioneering physicians and nutritionists who proposed nutritional therapy for many health problems. What more should we look for in the future?

1. Major clinical, scientifically controlled studies to test the efficacy of nutrients against specific diseases. Virtually the only studies in this area have been in the limited field of "Vitamin C versus the common cold." There are a host of nutrients waiting to be tested against many health problems. Unfortunately, from an economic point of view, because nutrients cannot be patented, there is little support coming from industry. Perhaps such funds will come from other sources and a comprehensive wholistic nutritional approach will be institutionalized, replacing more expensive and possibly dangerous medicinal drugs.

2. It is also to be hoped that major insurance companies will pay for nutritional therapy when practiced by competent nutrition-oriented physicians, enabling them to attract enough patients to impress both their colleagues and the world at large. …

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