In addition to our genetic makeup, certain physical aspects of our lives can exert a profound effect on our level of fitness. Generally, those who are able to tackle most physical tasks without displaying too much evidence of strain are typified by a lean, well-toned body with little or no excess fat. Genes and endocrine problems apart, the main reason why so few of today’s people are blessed with this ideal type of physique, lies in the fact that they tend to pay insufficient attention to their dietary needs, while living lives that are inclined to be too sedentary.
Sadly, while convenience foods and labour-saving devices may appear to make life simpler, they are also inclined to shorten it. The high incidence of type II diabetes, heart disease and stroke confirms the dangers inherent in lour modern lifestyles and underlines the importance of nutritional assessments.
Precisely what these studies consist of and how they are conducted will, to a large extent, be influenced by the purpose for which they are intended. In practice, one of the more common purposes for such research is to further our overall knowledge of the dietary factors that may influence the onset and course of metabolic conditions such as diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. In such cases, records may also be compiled by patients to provide them with greater insight into their condition, as well as guidelines to help improve their control over it. Another important purpose is to assist in the identification of individuals or groups who are either malnourished or who may be in danger of becoming so.
The status of an individual who undergoes a nutritional assessment is influenced, not just by the quantity of food he or she consumes, but also by its quality, as well as the state of his or her health. Studies may be direct, involving measurements performed on individuals, or indirect, in which community health statistics are analysed to pinpoint dietary trends. Methodologies employed include anthropomorphic measurements, such as height, weight, skin fold thickness and hip to waist ratios, while a clinical examination of hair, skin, nails, eyes and other organs together with laboratory tests, like haemoglobin, serum vitamin levels and abnormal metabolites in urine, all contribute to the overall picture and highlight any remediation that may be indicated.
Malnutrition is something we tend to associate with underdeveloped countries, but the truth is that the need for nutritional assessments in first-world communities is growing, not because of food shortages, but because of inappropriate choices. A healthy diet is as important as exercise to any fitness programme, so it is a good idea to be assessed before you get started.