For all living things food has primarily three important biological functions:
- to provide energy for heat production and muscular work
- to provide ingredients for replacement of body substances and
- to provide special ingredients that are necessary for biochemical processes.
Therefore, food is a very important energy and material basis for all life processes. The biologically active substances in food are called nutrients. They are present in food as energy-delivering macronutrients in the form of carbohydrates, fat and protein and micronutrients as in the form of vitamins, minerals and secondary metabolites. Just as important as the nutrients are the supply of liquid (ca. 2l/day) and the consumption of dietary fibre.
Proper diet is one of the most important actions of health promotion – and it is all the more effective the sooner it is begun.
A diet is considered healthy when it
- ensures optimal physical and mental development
- promotes concentration – and performance efficiency and
- prevents so-called civilization diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (CVD), hypertension, osteoporosis, gout ….
To ensure this, all the nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and water) are to be supplied to the body in a balanced proportion. Find out more about nutrients in my e-book.
As an unborn embryo we cannot choose our food, but we are fed on the umbilical cord of the mother. Even after birth, the infant´s diet is directly dependent on its social environment.
In the first year of life babies put everything in their mouths. In this way they get to know the idiosyncrasies of things and perceive their environment (oral phase). Accordingly, the food experiences are imprinted in this first phase of life. Normally, a healthy child develops a feeling of hunger and a sense of satiety finding his own rhythm of meals by themselves. When meal times are fixed, the child does not learn, however, the interaction of hunger – food – saturation. If the crying of a baby is always answered with the “calming bottles”, the foundation stone for faulty eating habits might be established. If we try to soften or eliminate a child´s tension and pain sensation with food, it also learns to react in similar situations like that at a later age. Children, who are forced to empty the bottle or eat everything on a plate, take on food beyond satiety. In this way, children lose their natural sense of hunger and satiety.
Eating behaviour is thus already learned from infancy on.
The role of heredity in the development of obesity is not clearly established. However, research indicates that there are dispositions to “get fat” and that a gene called “beta-adrenergic receptor-3 gene” may stimulate the fat cells for the production of a protein substance, which in turn stimulates the metabolism. When this gene is altered by heredity or environmental influences, and emotional parameters the calories are burned to slow in the body.
Nevertheless, the fact remains unaffected by genetic factors, we can only increase in weight when the energy balance is positive, i.e if energy intake from food exceeds energy expenditure.
In addition to the eating habits we learned and the genes our food intake depends on several situational conditions, such as
- type of food procurement and selection
- methods of preparation
- regularities in eating
- social/emotional organization of meals
The inherited assets are not to be changed. Learned behaviour and the situational factors may very well be affected. A successful long-term weight reduction can therefore only work on the change in eating habits and the solving of influencing subconscious emotional backgrounds. The earlier one starts with the re-education of eating habits, the easier it is feasible.