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A LIFE TIME NUTRITION WHICH HELPS YOU TO ACHIEVE A HEALTHY LIFE

Babies, Infants & Children 

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The first 24 months of life are a time of rapid growth and development. After this, growth slows, but mental and social development continues apace. This is why infants and children need good quality protein and sufficient vitamins and minerals to meet their needs. Proteins support growth and development, especially muscle and bones. Fiber is needed for digestive function and to prevent constipation, and can be found in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Calcium and vitamin D are vital for optimal bone health, as bone density increases until its peak in young adulthood. Iron is vital for red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Studies show that young children and teenage girls have a higher risk of low iron status, which can impact on immune function and cognitive development. Due to high nutritional needs and the fact that fussy eating is common, several countries recommend supplementation with vitamins A,  C, and D from infanthood until school-age. A fish oil supplement is useful if your child won’t eat oily fish. As children’s diets can influence future food preferences, and teeth are susceptible to decay, sugary foods and drinks should be limited. Salt should not be added to babies’ and toddlers’ meals as their underdeveloped kidneys cannot process the extra sodium.


Adolescents  

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Adolescence is the period of growth and development that occurs during the ages of 10 to 19. This period is characterized by physical changes, known as puberty, as well as social and emotional changes. The most common and visible changes of puberty are related to sexual maturation, which begins between ages 9 and 13 in girls and 11-and-a-half and 12 years in boys. Both genders will also experience significant growth in height and bone mass during this time period. Due to all these changes in a child’s physical appearance,  a greater self-awareness is often developed,  and the child may be self-conscious for the first time. Relationships are also shifting as greater significance is placed on a child’s social relationships and less on their family relationships. An adolescent might also want to exert more independence in making their own food choices. This presents a potential risk for choosing too many sugary and fat-dense foods while not eating enough fresh produce and high-fiber foods. The prevalence of adolescents being overweight or obese has significantly increased in recent years and these factors are one of the underlying reasons. Other nutrition-related concerns include adequate iron, vitamin D and calcium.

Pregnancy & Lactation  

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During pregnancy, maternal physiology undergoes dramatic changes to support the developing fetus. Changes include increases in blood volume and the size and function of major organs (heart, kidneys, pituitary, thyroid, mammaries, and uterus). Maternal nutrient intake needs to support these changes as well as the developing child. Surprisingly, the additional energy requirements (above those for a non-pregnant woman) are not substantial, estimated at about a further 10% during the last three months of pregnancy. Excessive calories before and during pregnancy are associated with adverse outcomes for both mother and baby and are a major concern for many populations. An appropriate supply of micronutrients is important for a successful pregnancy and lactation. During pregnancy,  the tissue development of mother and baby requires a range of micronutrients, including those involved in cell, red blood cell and DNA syntheses, such as folate and iron. The multiple roles of micronutrients in the developing fetus are complex, and an adequate supply during – and for some nutrients (such as folate)  before – pregnancy is important. Micronutrient requirements are partly dependent on the population and setting, which determine the maternal status.

Postmenopausal Women  

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A postmenopausal woman has ended her reproductive years, which is usually in her late 40s or early 50s. This aging process occurs as the ovaries no longer produce sufficient levels of estrogen and progesterone, causing the ovaries to stop releasing eggs. During menopause, estrogen levels decline, metabolism decreases and weight gain due to poor dietary and lifestyle choices are at their peak. Common menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats, and increased irritability, may fade during the postmenopausal period. During post-menopause, when estrogen levels are significantly lower, women have an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in postmenopausal women due to increased body fat accumulation, the aging process and changes in glucose metabolism. Consuming a heart-healthy diet which is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts may result in positive benefits. Osteoporosis may also occur as a result of reduced calcium, vitamin D and protein intake, along with low levels of physical activity. To strengthen bones, it is important to consume calcium and vitamin D. Rich sources of vitamin D include fatty fish and egg yolks; rich sources of calcium include dairy and kale 

The Elderly 

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Aging brings changes that impact on dietary needs as well as health. Muscle mass is harder to build and maintain, leading to the wasting condition sarcopenia. Nutrient absorption is reduced, especially for vitamin B12, folic acid, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Skin synthesis of vitamin D in response to sunlight also tails off. Another important change is to gut bacteria: in young people, these are diverse and skewed towards ‘friendly’ species such as bifidobacteria; in the elderly, both diversity and friendly species reduce, creating ideal conditions for pathogens. To keep healthy, elderly people should aim for a high-protein, high-fiber diet that includes nutrient-rich lean meat, poultry, eggs, oily fish and nuts, as well as fruit and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants such as vitamin A and C. Portions can be small and frequent to overcome reduced appetite. Soft foods are useful where dental problems exist. Supplements of calcium and vitamin D have been shown to help maintain bone density and prevent falls, probably through improved muscle function, while omega-3 fatty acids (from oily fish or fish oil supplements) have been linked to a reduced risk of dementia-type conditions. Additional B vitamins may help to slow cognitive decline.

Overweight & Obesity 

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The World Health Organization reports a ‘double burden’ across the world where 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese versus the 600 million who are starving. Overweightedness in children is rising 30% faster in developing countries, in line with increasing affluence and adoption of Western dietary patterns. Overweight is defined clinically as a body mass index over 25; obesity is a body mass index over 30. In children, age-related weight for height is used. The physiological causes of obesity are simple: an excess of dietary energy (calories) in relation to energy expended. However, the societal and behavioral drivers are more complex and include cheap, abundant energy-dense foods, marketing and low physical activity levels as a consequence of changes to work, travel, entertainment, and domestic life. This means that obesity is difficult to prevent and treat. Obesity impacts adversely on disease risk (especially type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease) and may reduce wellbeing, increasing the risk of depression and lower self-esteem. Efforts to reduce obesity have included population policies, such as limiting the promotion of certain foods or applying sugar taxes, as well as individual actions, such as professional advice, drugs or bariatric surgery. 

Malnutrition  

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Malnutrition occurs when a  person doesn’t eat enough, through illness, or when there is insufficient amounts or quality of food resulting in insufficient essential nutrients. The consequence is weight loss or reduced growth of children. Symptoms include a lack of interest in eating and drinking, chronic fatigue and a diminished immune system that increases the likelihood of illness and slows recovery. Stunted childhood growth is the most common outcome, resulting from multiple nutritional deficiencies, especially protein, zinc, iodine and milk, which each influence height growth, and an unsanitary environment, with a lack of clean water and soap. Kwashiorkor – severe malnutrition with edema and often with fatty liver and skin changes – most likely reflects tissue and organ damage caused by infections, or dietary toxins and a lack of protective micronutrients, minerals, and essential fatty acids. It is often fatal without careful management, which involves antibiotics and cautious feeding with a low-protein feed, electrolytes, and multivitamins. Public health programs focus on clean water and micronutrient supplementation. Obesity is a type of malnutrition in which overconsumption of energy-rich sugary or fatty foods accompanies an inactive lifestyle.

Changing Eating Habits

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As far as healthy food choices are concerned, we largely know the drill: eat more fish, fruit and vegetables, and less highly refined and processed foods. However, eating habits are considered to play a key part in our food choices. The term ‘habit’ can be defined as an automatic behavior, learned and repeated over and over again. If you instinctively grab a banana to eat first thing each morning in the kitchen, you have a habit. So, how can we form new healthy eating habits? Research tells us that it’s a three-step process. Firstly, there is a deliberate repetition of new behavior.  Then there is a cue to trigger practicing the new behavior. A cue can include recurring places, times or people. Lastly, there is rewarding of the new eating behavior. An example of this three-step process might be 
  1. A commitment to begin eating porridge every morning (repetition);
  2.  Leaving your bowl and spoon out in the kitchen the night before (cue); 
  3. Noting down the energy and alertness that comes from eating porridge in the morning (reward). 
  4. Applying this three-step process increases the likelihood that the new behavior will become a healthy eating habit. The new eating behavior also needs to be planned, relevant to an individual’s personal circumstances and easy to perform, so that it can be practiced repeatedly. 

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