The body’s nutritional health is determined by the sum of its nutritional state with respect to each needed nutrient. The state of nutrition is categorized into three; desired nutrition, undernutrition and overnutrition.
Maintaining a state of desired nutrition is the basis for establishing your nutrient needs and the diet plans to meet those needs. The common term malnutrition can refer to either overnutrition or undernutrition. Neither of these states is favorable to good health.
The state for a particular nutrient is desirable when body tissues have enough of the nutrient to support normal metabolic functions as well as surplus stores that can be used in times of increased need. A desired nutrition state can be achieved by eating essential nutrients from a variety of foods.
This occurs when your nutrient intake does not meet nutrient needs. During this state, stores are used up and therefore your health declines. Many nutrients are in high demand due to the constant state of cell loss and later regeneration in the body, such as in the gastrointestinal tract.
For this reason, certain nutrient stores are exhausted rapidly, such as for many of the B vitamins. In turn, a regular intake is needed. In addition, many women today do not consume enough iron to meet their monthly losses and eventually deplete their iron stores.
Once the availability of a nutrient falls sufficiently low, biochemical evidence, in which the body’s metabolic processes slow or stop, appears. At this state of deficiency there are no outward symptoms, thus it is termed as subclinical. A subclinical deficiency can go on for some time before a doctor is able to detect its effects.
Eventually clinical symptoms will develop, sometimes taking many years, and may result in clinical evidence of a deficiency; perhaps in the skin, hair, nails, tongue, or eyes. Often clinicians do not detect a problem until a deficiency produces such results, such as in vitamin C deficiency.
Prolonged consumption of more nutrients than your body needs can lead to overnutriton. In the short run, for example 1 or 2 week, overnutrition may cause only a few symptoms such as stomach distress from excess dietary fiber or iron intake. But if kept up, some nutrients may increase to toxic amounts which can lead to serious disease.
For instance, too much vitamin A can have a negative effect especially in children and expectant women.
The most common type of overnutrition today is eccess intake of energy-yeilding nutrients. This often leads to obesity. Over time obesity then leads to other serious diseases such as certain forms of diabetes and cancer.
For most vitamins and minerals, the gap between desirable intake and overnutrition is wide. Thus even if you take a typical multivitamin and mineral supplement daily, you probably won’t receive a harmful amount of any nutrient. The gap between optimal intake and overnutrition is narrowest for vitamin A, calcium, iron, copper, and other minerals.
Thus when you take nutritional supplements, keep a close eye on your total vitamin and mineral intake both from food and supplements to avoid toxicity.