Diseases related to food, how to prevent them?

Today, diseases related to food , such as overweight, obesity and diabetes, are increasing considerably. If we want to prevent them, it is essential that we eat a balanced diet , but did you know that other factors such as genetic predisposition and physical exercise also influence their development ? 

The importance of diet to prevent food-related diseases

As we have already explained in this blog, a balanced diet (link to post with kw “balanced diet”, not yet published) has very beneficial effects on health, as it is essential to prevent pathologies.

Despite the fact that today we have a lot of information regarding the impact that what we eat has on our well-being, diseases related to food are growing more and more.

In our way of eating, or eating behavior, components psychological, social and the body’s own regulation.

A balanced diet begins at the time of choosing food . If, for example, we consume excess salt, sugar and certain fats (trans and saturated), we eat little amount of fruit, vegetables and fiber and, in addition, we lead a sedentary life, we are contributing to increase our risk of suffering from chronic diseases related to factors dietetics.

Eating a balanced diet is beneficial not only in the short term, but also in the long term, since it can help prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, among others. 

 Do you want to know what are some of the most common diseases in which diet plays a fundamental role? We describe them below.

Main food-related diseases

Obesity and overweight

Obesity and overweight are two of the most worrisome diet-related diseases due to their high incidence. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they have reached epidemic proportions worldwide and each year cause the death of at least 2.8 million people worldwide.

When you eat foods that provide more energy than is burned through basal metabolism and exercise, this accumulates in excess, leading to weight gain that can lead to obesity. 

In addition to the imbalance between calorie intake and energy expenditure, there are other factors that influence the development of overweight and obesity , such as basal metabolism, the presence of endocrine disorders, and genetic factors. 

Body mass index (BMI)

The body mass index (BMI) is obtained by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters, according to the following formula: BMI = weight [kg]/ height [m2].

For the WHO , there is overweight when the BMI obtained is equal to or greater than 25, and obesity if it is equal to or greater than 30.  

We must be aware that before reaching a value associated with obesity, we can take preventive measures when the person is overweight, to avoid major consequences.

Therefore, it is essential to put all efforts into prevention, since once you have obesity, treatment is complicated and not always successful. People who have been obese have difficulties maintaining a proper weight in the long term.

Both the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity are based on two pillars: moderate physical activity and proper nutrition. In these cases it is necessary to work with professionals who guide eating and exercise habits, adapting them to the physical and health conditions of each individual.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a pathology that occurs when blood sugar or glucose levels are above normal. If this occurs, treatment is necessary to prevent this condition from causing damage to various organs of the body, such as the kidneys, eyes, heart or central nervous system, or that it may lead to cardiovascular diseases or strokes.

Diabetes is classified into two main types:

  • Type 1 or insulin-dependent: Often starts early in life, between the ages of 8 and 14, which is why it is also called juvenile diabetes.
  • Type 2 or non-insulin dependent: It usually starts at a later age than before, and is more common.

It is common to see several members of a family suffering from diabetes. This is mainly due to the genetic component and partly also to the fact that they share eating patterns and living habits.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease with a strong genetic component, in which the body itself destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, which is why it cannot be prevented and requires lifelong treatment. 

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is multifactorial and is strongly associated with bad lifestyle habits such as obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, as well as having a genetic component. With lifestyle changes, improvement can be seen in people with this type of diabetes.

Signs that appear before knowing if you have diabetes

Some of the signs and symptoms that may appear are:

  • Increased thirst and the need to urinate frequently
  • Increased hunger with unexplained weight loss
  • fatigue and irritability
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent mucosal infections and the appearance of slow-healing sores

Diagnosis and treatment of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed quickly as the symptoms appear suddenly. On the contrary, type 2 diabetes often begins with prediabetes that goes unnoticed since the symptoms are not so clear and appear gradually. The diagnosis for both types of diabetes is made by a blood test that reveals elevated glucose levels.

Treatment of type 1 diabetes, and the more severe forms of type 2, usually involves periodic injections of insulin or other medications. We must not forget the importance of medical supervision since the treatment may vary depending on the general state of health.

Regardless of the type of diabetes, people who suffer from this disease should pay special attention to lifestyle habits, following a healthy diet and without neglecting physical activity.

High blood pressure or hypertension

We distinguish two types of blood pressure (BP):

  • Systolic: pressure exerted by blood in the blood vessels when the ventricles of the heart contract. Popularly known as “the high”.
  • Diastolic: pressure exerted by blood in the blood vessels when the ventricles of the heart relax. Popularly known as “the low”.

Blood pressure is not constant, since it varies depending on many factors: activity or rest, meals, nervousness, temperature, etc.

There is a numerical range considered safe, which is 120 / 80 mm Hg, although it can fluctuate depending on age and sex. Values ‚Äč‚Äčabove this range are considered hypertension and are associated with a risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Among the factors that influence the development of hypertension we find psychological factors, obesity and certain genetic factors. In addition, a high sodium (salt) intake has also been associated with hypertension.

To treat hypertension, you must reduce your salt intake. If you also suffer from obesity, it will be necessary to lose weight and avoid alcohol intake. If the diet does not improve the condition, a specific drug treatment may be necessary. 

Cancer

As indicated by the WHO, cancer is among the leading causes of death today and in many cases its incidence is increasing. For this reason it is one of the diseases that most worries society. 

The link between diet and the appearance of certain types of cancer is becoming increasingly evident . Industrialized countries have undergone a change in eating patterns, prioritizing a diet rich in fat and low in fiber, fruit and vegetables. In the case of colorectal cancer, your risk increases with diets based on saturated fatty acids and rich in red meat, sausages and alcohol. In addition, abdominal fat increases the risk of suffering from this type of cancer.

On the other hand, a recent study carried out by the Carlos III Health Institute and the GEICAM group have linked the development of breast cancer with high-calorie diets and calorie restriction as a protective factor. It has also been observed that mothers who breastfeed their children for more than 12 months have a reduced risk compared to those who do not.

As for liver cancer, excessive alcohol consumption can cause cirrhosis, which is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer

The importance of exercise to prevent food-related diseases

As we have explained in the previous sections, diet is basic for disease prevention and health promotion. However, it is not enough. It is also necessary to maintain an adequate level of physical activity. Thanks to it we spend energy that would otherwise accumulate in our body in the form of fat, which can lead to overweight and all the diseases associated with it.

Influence of genetics on food-related diseases

As we have explained to you in other articles on this blog, our genetics predisposes us to certain diseases (such as some types of cancer), to certain cholesterol levels, to obesity, to some sports injuries, and even to food preferences. sweets, or to peck between meals.

Nutrition and genetics are two sciences that in the 21st century begin to work together and, from this fact, disciplines such as nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics arise, both under the umbrella of nutritional genomics , whose objective, explained in a simple way , is to understand how the genes of each individual influence the different reactions they can have to food.

Nutritional genomics 

The development of nutritional genomics has been possible thanks to the integration of knowledge from the field of nutrition and those derived from the sequencing of the human genome. Proposing personalized diets is seen as a key factor in preventing and treating diseases, since depending on their genes, people can process food differently. For example, two types of factors are involved in the development of obesity: genetic and environmental.Among the former are alterations in genes related to this disease, such as those involved in lipolysis (mobilization of lipids allowing them to be used as energy in the tissues where they are needed), while in the latter are diet, physical exercise, or habits like smoking. 

In conclusion, to effectively prevent chronic diseases, exercise is essential and, mainly, a diet that is adapted to each person taking into account their genetics. 

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