Switch: Redirecting from Fear of Food to Improving Nutrition
Nutrition shouldn’t cause anxiety and despair. Eating should be an enjoyable way to achieve good health. Yet, as the Heath brothers describe in their book “Switch”, the effort is overwhelming because we cannot decipher a Food Pyramid any better than a Food Rhombus or Food Rooster. MyPlate provides advice on servings but it isn’t inspirational. Our bathroom scales are more likely to cause us to push away from the table and quit the ‘clean plate club’.
Good nutrition requires more than calorie counting. Foods are a source of essential vitamins and minerals. Because unknowns seem insurmountable, we hope national statistics on vitamin and mineral insufficiency apply to everyone else but me and my family.
As has been said, “Yes, I know that most people don’t consume recommended amounts of vitamin X and am I glad not to be one of those unfortunate souls!” This avoidance behavior stems from an overwhelming, often incapacitating fear of being out of control. The alternative reaction is to presume to be the 'well-nourished' type.
In reality, without objective data on vitamin status, we try to stay calm and carry on. Low vitamin D concentrations, i.e. serum 25(OH)D, are an independent risk factor for arterial stiffness and possibly cardiovascular disease in adults. Now, Jha and colleagues report an inverse correlation between 25(OH)D concentrations and arterial stiffness in adolescents with type 2 diabetes.
Yet, how many people know their vitamin D status? Almost 40% of studies globally report average vitamin D concentrations below 50 nmol/L (insufficient according to the Institute of Medicine).
My aspiration is simple. Everyone should have their vitamin status checked annually. Wouldn’t it be helful to know if you were vitamin D status deficient, too low to be healthy, or vitamin D sufficient? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know your omega-3 index? How about your serum vitamin E levels? By knowing your vitamin status, choices would be simplified. It would be much easier to decide if you should continue eating the same foods, start buying more fortified foods, or take a daily vitamin supplement.
I dream of the day when people can have their finger pricked to determine their vitamin status quickly at low-cost. You should too. Be a champion for change. Ask your doctor, your pharmacist, your insurance company, your employer: “When will you help me get my vitamin status measured?”
Jha P, Dolan LM, Khoury PR, Urbina EM, Kimball TR, Shah AS. Low serum vitamin D levels are associated with increased arterial stiffness in youth with type 2 diabetes mellitus. 2015 Diab Care doi: 10.2337/dc15-0111
Hilger J, Friedel A, Herr R, Rausch T, Roos F, Wahl DA, Pierroz DD, Weber P, Hoffmann K. A systematic review of vitamin D status in populations worldwide. 2014 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114513001840