Nutrition, Health, and Your Environment

Nutrition, Health, and Your Environment
Nutrition, Health, and Your Environment


What we eat is taken into account an environmental issue that influences well being, in optimistic and unfavorable methods. Healthy diets with an optimum stability of vitamins assist folks accomplish each day bodily actions and psychological processes. Within your weight loss plan, a deficiency or extra of sure vitamins can have an effect on well being.

The time period weight loss plan refers to meals and drinks consumed over time in all settings, comparable to worksites, colleges, eating places, and the house. Diet additionally usually means a selected dietary plan or consuming sample.

Nutrition is the method of consuming, absorbing, and utilizing vitamins from meals which can be essential for development, growth, and upkeep of life.

What Are Nutrients?

Nutrients give your physique power and allow bodily features. They are normally categorized in two main teams:

  • Macronutrients, within the type of protein, carbohydrate, or fats, primarily to offer power to your physique. The totally different macronutrients serve totally different power pathways and features within the physique. Energy from macronutrients in meals is measured in models referred to as energy.
  • Micronutrients, referred to as nutritional vitamins and minerals, are required by the physique in minute quantities. They defend and promote numerous bodily features, together with processing power from macronutrients. Although important to well being, micronutrients don’t provide power.

What Should People Eat?

As mirrored within the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, scientific proof exhibits that healthful consuming patterns might help folks obtain and preserve well-being and scale back their likelihood of persistent illness. The tips additionally say that individuals can get pleasure from meals that meet their private wants and cultural preferences whereas consuming healthfully.

By translating science into succinct, food-based steering, the rules are meant to assist the U.S. inhabitants at massive select a greater weight loss plan. Specific dietary suggestions for people affected by diet-related circumstances should not supplied.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are collectively developed and issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Updated each 5 years, they’re the cornerstone for a lot of federal vitamin packages and insurance policies.

Why Study Nutrition and Health?

More than half of U.S. adults – 129 million folks – have a number of preventable persistent illnesses, comparable to heart problems, hypertension, kind 2 diabetes, and a few cancers, which are sometimes associated to weight loss plan and bodily inactivity.

Beyond well being results, nutrition-related illnesses create strains on productivity, health care spending, health disparities, and military readiness. Addressing such points requires understanding interrelated organic and social environmental determinants, and corresponding options.

As a scientific discipline, vitamin is integral to well being promotion and illness prevention. Information from many disciplines, together with anthropology, biology, biochemistry, economics, epidemiology, meals science and expertise, genetics, physiology, psychology, and sociology, are utilized in dietary research. Scientists think about what folks eat and drink, and take as dietary dietary supplements, throughout totally different life phases and over time. They concentrate on interconnections to construct proof for public coverage, well being system, and environmental enchancment methods.

Nutrition Research on the National Institutes of Health

The Precision Medicine Initiative is a long-term analysis challenge at NIH. This initiative goals to grasp how an individual’s genetics, setting, and life-style can decide one of the best approaches to forestall or deal with illness.

vegetables and person taking notes

As a part of the Precision Medicine Initiative, NIH has a plan to speed up vitamin analysis. While dietary tips and associated public well being approaches might help enhance dietary standing throughout a inhabitants, researchers have rising appreciation for the way various factors could have an effect on folks otherwise.

NIH vitamin analysis will assist reply: what should I eat to stay healthy?

The 2020 – 2030 Strategic Plan for NIH Nutrition Research focuses on how vitamin and dietary patterns have an effect on all well being circumstances and emphasizes the significance of understanding variation amongst folks. NIEHS assists with the coordination and implementation of this vitamin analysis plan.

This plan is organized by 4 strategic objectives and questions:

  • Spur discovery and innovation by means of foundational analysis: What can we eat and the way does it have an effect on us?
  • Investigate the function of dietary patterns and behaviors in optimum well being: What and when ought to we eat?
  • Define the function of vitamin throughout the lifespan: How does what we eat promote well being throughout the lifespan?
  • Reduce the burden of illness in scientific settings: How can we enhance using meals as medication?

And the plan considers these elements:

  • Dietary practices
  • Environmental exposures
  • Food setting
  • Genetic background
  • Health standing
  • Metabolism
  • Microbiome
  • Physical exercise
  • Psychosocial traits
  • Socioeconomics

What Is NIEHS Doing?

With funding and assist from NIEHS, scientists are whether or not sure dietary elements could defend folks’s well being when they’re uncovered to dangerous chemical substances and different environmental hazards. Scientists are additionally finding out whether or not environmental elements can worsen well being circumstances associated to vitamin or dietary patterns.

Nutrition May Reduce Harmful Health Effects From Environmental Factors

The idea of lowering danger from dangerous exposures tends to imply eradicating or reducing publicity to environmental contaminants. But that type of prevention could be tough to realize. An various idea is to concentrate on vitamins with potential to be protecting or scale back the chance of dangerous well being results from environmental elements.

variety of vegetables being held in a plate

Researchers on the NIEHS-funded University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center have an modern, long-running program that research if and the way vitamin can scale back the chance of dangerous well being results from environmental pollution. Their analysis is predicated on the premise that vitamin needs to be thought-about a essential variable within the examine of human illnesses related to publicity to environmental contaminants.

Based on years of examine, there’s proof that sure facets of vitamin are protecting and needs to be integral in efforts to intervene or prevent toxic health effects of some environmental elements.

For instance, the researchers uncovered how a person’s diet can defend towards the dangerous well being results of publicity to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Now banned from manufacturing, PCBs have been as soon as generally utilized in making merchandise comparable to warmth switch fluids and coolant in electrical transformers. They found that sure vitamins, vitamin E and omega 3-fatty acids, can scale back cell injury from PCB publicity and {that a} type of fiber present in greens can doubtlessly defend towards cardiovascular issues associated to PCB publicity. Conversely, additionally they discovered that dietary fat that is high in linoleic acid can worsen the cardiovascular results of PCBs.

Other Findings From NIEHS-supported Research Include the Following:

ADHD – Researchers demonstrated that low vitamin D during pregnancy was associated to an elevated danger of consideration deficit hyperactivity dysfunction (ADHD), a discovering that would result in new prevention measures.

Asthma – Much of the analysis on vitamin and autism issues intervals earlier than and through conception.

Asthma is a standard childhood illness that disproportionately impacts city minority populations, comparable to Black youngsters. Researchers found that vitamin D has a protective effect amongst youngsters with bronchial asthma who reside in city environments with poor indoor air high quality. In different phrases, overweight youngsters with blood ranges low in vitamin D had worse bronchial asthma than youngsters with greater vitamin D ranges.

A weight loss plan poor in antioxidants–micronutrients that assist defend cells within the body–has been recommended as one cause for the bronchial asthma epidemic. The conventional Mediterranean diet usually contains meals wealthy in antioxidants comparable to greens, fruits, nuts, fish, and olive oil, with a low consumption of meat. This weight loss plan sample has been proven to be protecting of bronchial asthma and allergic illness in a number of research. A examine funded by NIEHS discovered that following such a weight loss plan reduced the chance of asthma development amongst youngsters in Lima, Peru.

Autism Spectrum Disorder – Autism spectrum dysfunction (ASD) is a broad vary of circumstances that have an effect on communication and habits. Environmental elements and genetics are thought to contribute to ASD, which impacts 1 in 44 children within the U.S.

While extra analysis is required on the potential function vitamin could play within the growth of ASD, research reveal promising findings.

  • Taking a prenatal vitamin during early pregnancy was related to a decrease price of ASD in a 2021 examine. This discovering signifies that prenatal nutritional vitamins or supplemental folic acid could possibly be preventative for ASD.
  • The youthful siblings of kids with ASD have a better likelihood of creating the dysfunction resulting from shared genetics and related setting. A NIEHS-funded researcher reported, in 2019, that when moms of those youngsters took prenatal nutritional vitamins with folic acid within the first month of being pregnant, the recurrence of autism was reduced by about half. Folic acid is the artificial type of folate, often known as vitamin B-9, which is discovered in lots of meals, comparable to dark-green leafy greens, beans, peas, broccoli, and oranges.

Autoimmune Diseases – Lupus, an autoimmune illness, happens when your physique’s immune system assaults your personal tissues and organs, affecting many alternative physique methods. Lupus can flare up when genetically predisposed folks encounter sure environmental brokers, comparable to air pollution, pesticides, or different chemical substances. A examine funded by NIEHS discovered that dietary micronutrients may both improve or worsen lupus symptoms. Study outcomes counsel that dietary modification, comparable to extra vitamin B-12, zinc, and folic acid, may be a therapeutic method warranting additional investigation in lupus sufferers.

Other NIEHS-funded analysis signifies that satisfactory vitamin D ranges could also be essential for preventing immune dysfunction in older folks.

Brain Health – Consuming omega-3 fatty acids, present in fish and flaxseed oil, could protect against brain shrinkage in older women who reside in areas with excessive ranges of air air pollution referred to as tremendous particulate matter (PM2.5).

Women residing in places with greater PM2.5 had considerably much less white matter of their brains. But in these places, girls with excessive blood ranges of omega-3 fatty acids had white matter that appeared more healthy.

Cancer – More than 20 years in the past, NIEHS researchers demonstrated a gene-diet interplay in a examine that discovered isothiocyanates, a compound in cruciferous greens (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage), was protective against lung cancer.

In-house researchers at NIEHS discovered that vitamin D supplementation may be useful in breast cancer prevention. The examine appeared a gaggle of ladies with the next danger of creating breast most cancers. The girls who had excessive blood ranges of vitamin D and commonly took vitamin D dietary supplements had decrease charges of postmenopausal breast most cancers over a 5-year follow-up interval.

Inflammation – Many epidemiological research present evidence that cardiovascular diseases are linked to environmental pollution. NIEHS-funded researchers discovered that a mixture of B vitamins (folic acid, B-6, and B-12) may protect DNA in immune cells from dangerous results of PM2.5 air air pollution. They discovered that this air pollution triggered adjustments in DNA associated to irritation and metabolism, which can be tied to cardiovascular or respiratory circumstances. According to the researchers, dietary supplementation with B nutritional vitamins virtually fully prevented the adjustments to DNA which will result in antagonistic well being results.

Obesity – High lead ranges throughout being pregnant are linked to little one weight problems in a large 2019 study, partially funded by NIEHS. Children born to girls who’ve excessive blood lead ranges are extra probably be obese or overweight, in comparison with youngsters whose moms have low ranges of lead of their blood. But girls who take folic acid dietary supplements throughout being pregnant could scale back the possibility that their youngsters are overweight.

Reproductive Health – There is rising acceptance that vitamin could also be associated to fertility, and particularly the success of infertility therapy in girls. NIEHS-funded analysis discovered that girls consuming a “pro-fertility” diet that included supplemental folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, low-pesticide vegatables and fruits, complete grains, seafood, dairy, and soy meals have a better likelihood of reside beginning following assisted reproductive applied sciences.

The identical researcher discovered folic acid may counter the antagonistic results of air air pollution on reproductive success in girls utilizing assisted reproductive expertise. Air air pollution can hurt replica by means of quite a lot of organic mechanisms, together with oxidative stress, endocrine disruption, DNA methylation, an altered immune response, and irritation. Given publicity to traffic-related air air pollution, pregnant girls who took folic acid had a greater chance of their pregnancy resulting in a live birth.

Environmental Factors Affect Nutrition

Food Environments – A scientific evaluation printed in 2020, partially funded by NIEHS, means that the well being of some youngsters could also be affected by food environments near schools. Researchers examined the presence of fast-food shops, comfort shops, supermarkets, and grocery shops close to colleges together with measures of obese/weight problems by race/ethnicity, gender, grade, and revenue degree.

This evaluation discovered that when quick meals shops have been positioned close to colleges, weight problems charges have been typically greater amongst youngsters in all grade ranges. Additional analysis is required to raised perceive this discovering, particularly for youngsters at greater danger of weight problems, comparable to these from socio‐economically deprived populations.

fast food

Food Packaging – PFAS are a gaggle of greater than 9,000 perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a category of chemical substances related to dangerous well being results, together with liver injury, most cancers, and impaired immunity. Due to wide-spread utilization, PFAS are within the blood of nearly every American, in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Some PFAS have grease-repellent properties, which is why they’re added to meals packaging. A examine discovered PFAS coatings on 46% of food-wrap papers and 20% of paperboard containers collected from fast-food eating places throughout the U.S. This demonstrated prevalence of PFAS in fast-food packaging exhibits how folks could be uncovered to PFAS by means of meals they could devour.
  • In a subsequent, associated examine, consumption of meals from quick meals, and pizza and different eating places, was typically related to higher serum PFAS concentrations in people. In the identical examine, consumption of microwave popcorn was related to considerably greater serum ranges of sure PFAS chemical substances.

Food Safety – Food security research funded by NIEHS embrace contaminants in frequent meals. In specific, arsenic, a metal-like ingredient that may hurt many human organs, presents a worldwide meals contamination drawback.

Researchers measured arsenic concentrations in a number of rice-based merchandise. They discovered excessive ranges of arsenic in brown rice syrup, an alternative to corn syrup in lots of meals together with toddler method. This discovery knowledgeable the Food and Drug Administration’s Inorganic Arsenic in Rice Cereals for Infants: Action Level Draft Guidance for Industry and different federal actions and stories.

The drawback of contaminants in meals led researchers funded by the Superfund Research Program to develop approaches for addressing soils used to develop crops. Some are engaged on phytoremediation approaches which can be cost-effective and ecologically pleasant. Phytoremediation is a course of that makes use of fast-growing crops in engineered methods to degrade, extract, comprise, or immobilize contaminants from soil or groundwater.

One group is testing a species of a non-food crop plant referred to as oilseed to absorb and concentrate arsenic in its stems and leaves. Once harvested, these crops could possibly be safely destroyed by means of incineration. Then, the plan is for farmers to plant meals crops within the soil remediated from arsenic. This challenge is ongoing by means of 2025.

Eating Fish – Eating fish can present many well being advantages, however customers needs to be cautious. Some varieties of fish caught in sure areas are decrease in mercury, PFAS, and different contaminants than different fish. Fish consumption advisories assist folks perceive what fish are suitable for eating, for whom, and in what portions.

Researchers supported by NIEHS, for instance, developed the Eat Fish, Choose Wisely guide for North Carolina residents, which features a color-coded map for folks to determine areas the place they’ll catch fish which can be safer to eat.

group of friends gardening

Food Gardening – The want for inexpensive, wholesome meals has elevated public curiosity in residence, faculty, and group gardens. While city gardens present quite a few advantages, soil contamination could also be a problem. Some NIEHS-funded researchers have taken on secure city gardening of their group engagement tasks. Examples embrace:

Food Security – Diet is well known as a key contributor to human intestine microbiome composition and performance. A wholesome intestine microbiome might help the immune system develop, defend towards pathogens, and allow correct meals digestion. Researchers discovered the intestine microbiome of adults with food insecurity, a scarcity of entry to wholesome meals, differed from those that have been meals safe. This examine is important as a result of it centered on a social issue moderately than dietary elements.

Intramural Research

The following massive tasks, performed in-house at NIEHS, have analysis elements that concern dietary patterns or vitamin.

farm couple in front of tractor

Agricultural Heath Study – More than 89,000 farmers and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina have been concerned on this examine since 1993. The collaborative analysis effort includes investigators from NIEHS, National Cancer Institute, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This analysis challenge features a dietary survey. A listing of published papers is organized by yr.

older ladies smiling

The Sister Study – From 2003 to 2009, greater than 50,000 girls throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, who have been 35-74 years outdated and whose sister had breast most cancers, joined this landmark analysis effort to search out causes of breast most cancers. Because of their shared setting, genes, and experiences, finding out sisters offers a strategy to determine danger elements for breast most cancers, which can result in prevention. Participants full well being updates every year, which embrace dietary surveys. A listing of published papers is organized by yr.

Lady holding up a baby

Infant Feeding & Early Development Puberty Study (IFED-2) – This analysis examine is what infants eat and the way they develop, together with hormonal adjustments, into adolescence. It will enhance understanding of why some youngsters undergo puberty earlier or later than others. The age when puberty begins could also be linked to an individual’s future well being.

NIEHS Clinical Research Unit

CaREFREE Study: Calorie Restriction, Environment, and Fitness: Reproductive Effects Evaluation

Women who develop irregular menstrual cycles could discover it tough to develop into pregnant. Researchers need to study extra about practical hypothalamic amenorrhea, an improperly performing hypothalamus within the mind, and the way it could cause a girl’s interval to cease briefly. Dietary patterns and train could have an effect on this perform and alter menstrual cycles. The CaREFREE examine will take a look at how these elements could have an effect on some girls.

Further Reading

Stories from the Environmental Factor (NIEHS e-newsletter)

Printable Fact Sheets


  • Campaign Promotes Eating Safer Fish (2022) – The “Stop, Check, Enjoy!” marketing campaign helps fishers in southeastern North Carolina perceive the dangers of consuming sure fish from the Cape Fear River.

  • Community-engaged Research Leads to Soil Cleanup (2022) – Emory University works with residents of Atlanta’s Westside group to check their city gardening soil for lead. This effort led to consciousness of well being dangers and the elimination of lead-contaminated soil in neighborhoods.

  • Botanical Safety (2021) – Cynthia Rider, Ph.D., National Toxicology Program, describes how sure botanical dietary dietary supplements could have an effect on well being and the way customers could make knowledgeable choices.

Additional Resources

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