Topic of the Month
Nutritional solutions to counteract the negative impact of air pollution
Metabolic processes that occur in the presence of oxygen, innate immune defense processes and external factors lead to the formation of so-called reactive oxygen species, (ROS), the ‘prooxidants’ that oxidize lipids, DNA and proteins and can impair their functioning. A sufficient intake of plant-typical ingredients with ‘antioxidant’ activity appears to play an important role in preventing degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease and some kinds of cancer. Prominent among these substances, which the human organism cannot synthesize for itself, are the carotenoids, vitamins C and E, and the flavonoids.
Healthy teeth and gums are a significant factor in demonstrating quality of life and ought to be preserved into old age. Aside from adequate oral hygiene, nutrition makes a fundamental contribution in doing so. Both an excess and a lack of certain nutrients in the diet can lead to characteristic oral disorders. A shortage of micronutrients, for example, can considerably impair oral health. Conversely, oral health problems can contribute to malnutrition, as can be seen in people who cannot chew without pain or discomfort because of a disorder or in people without teeth.
Embryonic and fetal development, as well as the early life of a newborn, are periods of physiological plasticity during which environmental influences may produce long-term effects. Both undernutrition and overnutrition during these periods have been shown to change disease risk in adulthood. These effects are influenced by the type, timing and duration of inappropriate nutrition.
Nutritional genomics is a science that studies the relationship between the human genome, nutrition and health. It can be divided into ‘nutrigenomics’, which investigates the effect of nutrients on health through altering gene expression, and ‘nutrigenetics’, analyzing genetic variations (polymor-phisms) among individuals with respect to the interaction between nutrients and disease. It is becoming increasingly evident that the risk for developing degenerative diseases increases with more DNA damage, which in turn is dependent on micronutrient status.
The metabolic functions of the brain and nervous system depend not only on the supply of macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats and proteins – but also on the availability of micronutrients.
Many observational studies have shown that a lack of antioxidants represents an additional risk for cardiovascular disease (see Part 1). However, the following intervention studies, which were intended to provide evidence of the effectiveness of antioxidant micronutrients in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, were designed as though the antioxidants could produce an additional health benefit irrespective of the supply status of the individual (see Part 2).
Observations from epidemiological studies on the protective effect of antioxidant micronutrients in relation to cardiovascular diseases (see Part 1) warranted an attempt to prove the hypothesis by means of intervention studies. However, the results of many randomized controlled studies were disappointing: many investigations revealed few, if any, differences between groups receiving placebo and those receiving food supplements with vitamin C and/or E and beta-carotene in regard to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a benefit was found in only a few groups.