October 13, 2015
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Prevention (cont.)

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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in 2010 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), contains guidelines for healthy diets based upon review of scientific studies for people above 2 years of age. These guidelines recommend that a healthy diet should:

  • balance calories with physical activity to manage weight;
  • consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood;
  • consume fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.

MyPyramid is an online animated program to help a person customize his/her diet by choosing proper foods and portion sizes based on the individual's age, sex, and activity level. The key objectives of the MyPyramid Plan are to help a person get the most nutrition (proteins, vitamins, and minerals) out of the recommended number of daily calories and to achieve a balance between food intake and physical activity to maintain a healthy weight. The MyPyramid Plan recommendations include:

  • Make half your grains whole.
  • Vary your veggies.
  • Focus on fruit.
  • Get your calcium-rich foods.
  • Go lean with protein.
  • Find your balance between food and physical activity.

Vitamins and minerals to maintain health

Vitamins and mineral supplements are important both in preventing deficiency states as well as in preventing diseases. Most diseases resulting from vitamin deficiencies such as scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), night blindness (vitamin A deficiency), and beriberi (thiamine deficiency) occur mainly in third-world countries and are almost nonexistent in the United States. But certain special populations in the United States can develop vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and thus require dietary supplements. For example,

  • severely malnourished alcoholics can develop nerve damage from thiamine deficiency;
  •  individuals lacking sun exposure can develop bone disease from vitamin D deficiency;
  • pernicious anemia is a condition associated with nerve damage, which can result from vitamin B12 deficiency; and
  • people with celiac sprue can also develop vitamin deficiencies, as well as iron deficiency.

For these special populations, vitamin supplements are important to prevent these deficiencies.

Vitamin supplements to prevent diseases

Vitamin supplements are used to prevent deficiencies and also to prevent diseases. Certain vitamin supplements (such as folic acid, vitamin B6, and B12) have been used to lower blood levels of homocysteine, which may help prevent heart attacks. Folic acid fortification in cereals and vitamin supplements has been found to decrease the risk of birth defects in the developing fetus in pregnant women.

Diets to control and/or treat diseases

Diets low in simple sugars are important in controlling blood glucose levels in people with diabetes mellitus. When the condition cannot be adequately controlled by diet alone, medications (sometimes including insulin) are required.

  • The DASH dietis recommended to lower blood pressure. If dietary measures alone are not sufficient, medications are frequently prescribed by doctors (sometimes in combination) to lower blood pressure.
  • A gluten-free diet is the primary treatment for celiac disease (celiac sprue). Since people with celiac sprue may have difficulty absorbing nutrients and vitamins, some people with this condition may also need calcium, iron, and vitamin supplements.
  • Therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) are important treatments for high blood levels of cholesterol, especially the "bad" ( LDL) cholesterol. When TLC are not sufficient, then medications are usually indicated to lower blood lipid levels.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine

Previous medical author: Dr. Dennis Lee, MD



Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/4/2015

Source: MedicineNet.com

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