Nutrition and Hydration Week is a national campaign aiming to bring the promotion of the importance of food, hydration and nutrition in both healthcare settings and social organizations. Its overall aim is to improve access to safe and nutritious food and drink on a global scale.
In order to mark the occasion, the ISRCTN registry, together with Nutrition Journal and International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, have been looking at some of the research being done in the general field of nutrition and hydration.
As shocking as it seems, it is even an issue here in the UK. It has been suggested, for example, that one in five elderly people in nursing homes do not drink enough fluid and there have been claims that some hospitals are failing to provide good nutrition to their elderly patients.
One in five elderly people in nursing homes are said to not drink enough fluid.
The recent downturn in the economy has also meant that more people are now struggling to provide food for their families.
A recent report on school holiday hunger stated that more than six out of ten parents with household incomes of less than £25K a year are not always able to buy food outside of term time; this rises to almost 80% for families with incomes of less than £15K per annum.
As part of this year’s campaign, there is a Worldwide Afternoon Tea which they hope will get into the Guinness Book of Records. So, why not use that as an excuse now to grab yourself a cuppa and join us in exploring some of the work focusing on promoting a healthy diet, the role that diet can play in health conditions, and how to ensure that people get enough food and drink at all.
Good nutrition starts from the womb
‘Eating for two’ is not just an idiom, as a healthy diet is vital during pregnancy to help the baby develop and grow normally. However, it is not simply a matter of quantity, and there are a number of studies in the ISRCTN registry looking at how to improve the diet of pregnant women, including investigating whether tailored dietary advice, provided on a website, results in healthier babies at birth.
A healthy diet is vital during pregnancy to help the baby develop and grow normally.
If the mother is overweight or obese, or gains a lot of weight during her pregnancy, the baby is more likely to develop a condition known as macrosomia.
Macrosomic (larger-than-average) babies are more at risk of being overweight, and therefore more likely to have health problems in later life. The ROLO study looked at how what overweight or obese women eat during pregnancy affects the size of their baby at birth.
The results of the study, recently published in the Nutrition Journal showed that a low glycaemic index diet reduced the risk of macrosomia, highlighting the important role of a healthy diet in pregnancy.
Carrying on the good work
Childhood obesity is a growing problem; one in ten children are already obese before they go to primary school. By the time they leave, its one in five.
A child’s diet, particularly when very young, is controlled by their parents; therefore, a team of researchers from the University of Agder are looking at whether giving parents access to a website providing information about good parental feeding practices, diet and how to make healthy homemade baby food leads to improvements in a child’s diet and parental feeding practices and help prevent obesity in the future.
It is often claimed that a healthy diet is more expensive than junk food, with the former costing up to three times more. The Supermarket Healthy Eating for Life study aimed to circumnavigate this problem and promote healthy eating in Australia though, for example, providing a number of resources and materials, help with skills such as budgeting and meal planning and setting goals (such as increasing the amount of vegetables a family eats).
The results were recently published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity and showed that one third of participants taking part in the study did change how they bought and cooked their food.
It is often claimed that a healthy diet is more expensive than junk food, with the former costing up to three times more.
But can when you eat be as important as what you eat? People who work in shifts are known to be of an increased risk of heart disease and other health conditions, something that is thought to be linked to phosphorus. Phosphorus is essential for health, but too much of it may cause cardiovascular disease. Researchers in Japan have been looking at whether eating at night can affect phosphorus metabolism.
Diet and disease management
Diet may even be important in managing health problems, with a number of scientists theorising that it could help in the management of diseases.
The “Dietary interventions in inflammatory bowel disease” study, for example, is investigating how a controlled diet might help people to manage Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, while another trial is looking at whether increasing the amount of vitamin D in the diet may help dialysis patients to live longer.
Drinking is good for you
While sadly not an excuse to reach for that bottle of wine (the jury is still out on whether red wine is all that good for you), making sure that the body remains adequately hydrated is essential for life. Severe dehydration can lead to drowsiness, seizures and even death.
But while it is known that some drinks are more hydrating than others – meaning that more of the fluid contained in the drink is retained by the body – which ones remains an open question.
This study recently looked at the hydrating potential of a number of common drinks. The researchers hope to use the results to develop a hydration index.
With this in mind, the University of East Anglia will shortly be recruiting care-home residents for a study creating a “pro-drinking environment” to encourage them to keep hydrated.
The problem of not enough food
While we may take it for granted, in many places throughout the world, people are not guaranteed a constant supply of nutritious and safe foods. This food insecurity can have damaging effects on a child’s growth and development, general health and educational attainment.
A study published in Nutrition Journal, for example, describes how food insecurity among adolescents led to more absences from school and poorer academic performance.
Happily, there is some help on offer. Cash transfer programs are a well-established way to help people in developing countries to provide food for their families. There are a number of studies in the ISRCTN registry on cash transfer programmes in aiming to tackle child malnutrition in a number of countries, including Somalia, Pakistan and Niger.
A million children in the UK are said to go to school hungry every day.
Hunger can be found even in the UK. Poorer parents often find it difficult to provide for their children and over half a million children are said to go to school hungry every day. Magic Breakfast is a scheme taking place in England that gives free breakfasts to primary school children. They are investigating whether children provided with the magic breakfasts do better at school and are better behaved.
Good nutrition and hydration is vital in all stages of life. What we eat and drink can have a significant impact on our general health, quality of life and how well children do at school. Diet can also help with the management of a number of health problems – high cholesterol, diabetes and irritable bowel diseases just to name a few.
The scandal, of course, is that no-one in the world needs to go without at all. While the UK throws away more food than any other country in the EU, almost 800 million people in the world do not have enough food to eat at all.
While the UK throws away more food than any other country in the EU, almost 800 million people in the world do not have enough food to eat at all.
The good news is that it is a very active area of research and it is hoped that this, along with movements such as Nutrition and Hydration Week, will one day ensure that everyone gets enough nutrition and hydration for all their needs.