A balanced diet will keep the doctor away

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DESPITE the age-long quote — ‘eat your food as your medicines, otherwise, you have to eat medicines as your food’ — many people do not understand the power of nutrition. We have to be aware of the fact that health status is mainly determined by the food we eat and our dietary patterns. Non-communicable or chronic diseases are a main contributor to the global burden of disease. The situation is exacerbated by globalisation, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. Unfortunately, not all countries can increase their resource allocation for healthcare. While high-income countries have access to effective healthcare services, the situation is different in low-income nations. The human body is characterised by many physiological and biochemical processes that produce free radicals and other reactive oxygen species as by-products, which, in turn, cause oxidative damage to biomolecules such as nucleic acids, lipids and proteins. Oxidative damage or stress is generally considered as the underlying cause of chronic diseases such as ageing, cancer, diabetes, cell loss and neuro degenerative diseases (NDs). NDs have significant economic and social importance. Common manifestations of NDs include progressive loss of independence, loss of memory and thinking ability, mood swings and personality changes.

It is important to develop antioxidant strategies that could minimise the oxidative degradation of biomolecules. Researchers have established that plants are abundant sources of polyphenols, which act as antioxidants. Medicinal plants have great potential, especially in the food industry, such as in the prevention of food deterioration through their interference with oxidation reactions and decomposition of oxidation products. Studies have reported the potential benefits of plant antioxidant as anti-atherosclerotic, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-mutagenic and anti-viral agents. Treatment of a disease is always costlier than prevention. The role of diet and nutrition is undeniable. When we talk about a balanced and healthy diet, fruits and vegetables are key comp onents. But how many people consume them as much as required? It is time to take advantage of the fact that each and every country is endowed with abundant fruits and vegetable species which can be exploited and incorporated into the diet of its people and solve nutrition-related issues.

Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Science, Lincoln University College, Malaysia.


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