From Treating Childhood Malnutrition to Public Health Nutrition

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Abstract

Background: This analysis sets out an overview of an IUNS presentation of a European clinician’s assessment of the challenges of coping with immediate critical clinical problems and how to use metabolic and a mechanistic understanding of disease when developing nutritional policies. Summary: Critically ill malnourished children prove very sensitive to both mineral and general nutritional overload, but after careful metabolic control they can cope with a high-quality, energy-rich diet provided their initial lactase deficiency and intestinal atrophy are taken into account. Detailed intestinal perfusion studies also showed that gastroenteritis can be combatted by multiple frequent glucose/saline feeds, which has saved millions of lives. However, persisting pancreatic islet cell damage may explain our findings of pandemic rates of adult diabetes in Asia, the Middle East and Mexico and perhaps elsewhere including Africa and Latin America. These handicaps together with the magnitude of epigenetic changes emphasized the importance of a whole life course approach to nutritional policy making. Whole body calorimetric analyses of energy requirements allowed a complete revision of estimates for world food needs and detailed clinical experience showed the value of redefining stunting and wasting in childhood and the value of BMI for classifying appropriate adult weights, underweight and obesity. Lithium tracer studies of dietary salt sources should also dictate priorities in population salt-reduction strategies. Metabolic and clinical studies combined with meticulous measures of population dietary intakes now suggest the need for far more radical steps to lower the dietary goals for both free sugars and total dietary fat unencumbered by flawed cohort studies that neglect not only dietary errors but also the intrinsic inter-individual differences in metabolic responses to most nutrients. Key Messages: Detailed clinical and metabolic analyses of physiological responses combined with rigorous dietary and preferably biomarker of mechanistic pathways should underpin a new approach not only to clinical care but also to the development of more radical nutritional policies.

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