Should I see a nutritionist or stick to dietary guidelines?

We may all be made of flesh and blood, but each one of us has a body with unique differences. These varying individual distinctions can call for custom measures when it comes to needs for health. For these reasons good clinicians can accept established dietary guidelines as a general route for a population to make sensible eating choices, but, when appropriate, offer a tailored alternative to provide best results for a patient.

A suitable deviance from normal recommendations, for example, may be to take milk and cheese off the menu for patients of Native American and African ancestry. Lactose intolerance has been found by Cambridge researchers to affect these populations indiscriminately, which should lead clinicians to diverge from the US Department of Agriculture’s guidelines of dairy intake when caring for such affected patients (Scrimshaw & Murray, 1988).

For others increasing dietary intake of dairy may be useful. An athletic patient seeking nutritional advice may find herself or himself encouraged to supplement with protein from dairy whey directly after exercise since Australian researchers have just found that this practice may speed recovery of muscle (Buckley et al., 2008).

Customization of diet should not be limited to genetic and other physical variations in patients. The clinician who discovers a four-year-old girl’s inclination to refuse vegetables may recommend her concerned parents try a more-likeable chewable vitamin in place.

The examples given suggest person-centered care may be better for all. A community has benefited, however, from a fixed norm developed by public policy. Guidelines should not be considered as strict, but should help the grocery store and restaurant offer options while sensitive to the health of customers as well as help the lay person make smart daily food choices.

Selected References

Buckley, J.D., Thomson, R.L., Coates, A.M., Howe, P.R., Denichilo, M.O., & Rowney, M.K. (Sept, 2008). “Supplementation with a whey protein hydrolysate enhances recovery of muscle force-generating capacity following eccentric exercise.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. [Ahead of print]. Retrieved Sept. 5, 2008, from Pubmed online database.

Scrimshaw, N.S. and Murray, E.B. (Oct.1988). “The acceptability of milk and milk products in populations with a high prevalence of lactose intolerance.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 48(4 Suppl):1079-159.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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