Over the last 50,000 years, humans have obtained a survival benefit from an ability to store fat through the actions of so-called “thrifty genes” (1). In the past 200 years, changes in the human diet and lifestyle have outstripped the ability of the genome to adjust to a changing environment and billions of people around the world are now obese as a result (2–8).
Although studies show that hunter-gatherers ate some 800 different varieties of plants (9), today, in many countries, the average intake is only about three servings of fruit and vegetables per day, which fails to provide enough of the naturally occurring antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. Highly processed foods with refined starches, sugars, fats and oils often fail to contain the essential nutrients that are found in nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables but have many more calories per bite (10).
At the same time, labor-saving devices of all kinds and advances in transportation have made a highly sedentary lifestyle possible over the last 30 years (11). A global epidemic of obesity and chronic disease, which is underestimated if one uses the body mass index (BMI) alone, is sweeping the globe as industrialization and improved standards of living are spreading to urban centers.
Certain ethnic groups, including Asians, Asian Indians, Latinos and Native Americans, are genetically susceptible to metabolic syndrome – due to the accumulation of visceral fat that results in inflammation in the absence of marked increases in BMI (12). It is estimated that within the next 10 years, the majority of all heart disease will be associated with type 2 diabetes, with significant increases in incidence projected in China, India, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Latin America (13).
Potential solutions that emphasize social support networks and innovative methods of integrating a balanced diet and healthy active lifestyle, in ways that are personally rewarding based on financial or social incentives, are urgently needed (14).
The Herbalife Nutrition Institute (HNI) has brought together some of the finest minds in nutrition science in the world today for this educational project that offers you not only the latest information available but also an integration of this information into materials you can use in personalizing your nutrition and lifestyle. Information on nutrition science is complemented by a separate set of chapters on fitness science. There has never been a time when understanding nutrition science has been more important than today as the world’s population is facing a global nutrition transition.
1. Neel JV. Diabetes mellitus: A “thrifty” genotype rendered detrimental by “progress”? Am J Hum Genet 1962;14:353–62.
2. Gross LS, Li L, Ford ES, Liu S. Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: An ecologic assessment. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:774–9.
3. Bray GA, Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr 2004; 79:537–43.
4. Bray GA, Popkin BM. Dietary fat intake does affect obesity! Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:1157–73.
5. Darmon N, Briend A, Drewnowski A. Energy dense diets are associated with lower diet costs: A community study of French adults. Public Health Nutr 2004;7:21–7.
6. Drewnowski A. Fat and sugar: An economic analysis. J Nutr 2003;133: 838S–40S.
7. Drewnowski A. Obesity and the food environment: dietary energy density and diet costs. Am J Prev Med 2004;94:1555–9.
8. World Health Organization. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Report of a joint WHO/FAO consultation. Geneva, Switzerland. 2003. Technical report 916. Available from: http://www.who.int/ dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/intro/en/ (cited March 2009).
9. Brand-Miller JC, Holt SH. Australian Aboriginal plant foods: A consideration of their nutritional composition and health implications. Nutr Res Rev 1998;11:5–23.
10. Kant AK. Consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods by adult Americans: Nutritional and health implications. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:929–36.
11. Hill JO, Wyatt HR, Reed GW, Peters JC. Obesity and the environment: Where do we go from here? Science 2003;299:853–5.
12. Seidell JC. Obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes – A worldwide epidemic. Br J Nutr 2000;83(suppl 1):S5–8.
13. Bax JJ, van der Wall EE. Assessment of coronary artery disease in patients with (a)symptomatic diabetes. Eur Heart J 2006;27:631–2.
14. Bornstein SR, Ehrhart-Bornstein M, Wong ML, Licinio J. Is the worldwide epidemic of obesity a communicable feature of globalization? Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 2008;116(suppl 1):S30–2.
Source: Herbalife Nutrition Institute
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