Guelph-Humber News

Published on March 8, 2016 | by Leyah Mirza     Photography by PublicDomain


Preventing diseases before they happen

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing for your health. The University of Guelph-Humber’s kinesiology students weigh in on how new research and advancements could change the way people think about nutrition.

Second-year kinesiology students Marilyn Markis and Nardine Effat were chosen by their department head to attend the Canadian Nutrition Society (CNS) Conference in Toronto which was organized by Associate Professor, Dr. David Ma.

“The conference was held on the theme of metabolic syndrome and how it affects multiple areas of your life,” said Markis. Dr. Ma also added the emphasis was “for professionals and trainees to learn about the latest advances” in the field of nutrition.

Professionals at the conference explained how a healthy diet can prevent metabolic syndrome, but not many people know what the term actually means.

“Metabolic syndrome is a pre-disease, before we get diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic diseases,” explained Dr. Ma. Nutritionists refer to it “as a disease or obesity,” he said.

Health myths and trends are constantly popping up in the media. “Veganism is a trend and going dairy free and meat free; people are jumping on these diets, said Markis.” But they don’t realize the body needs balance, which is why metabolic syndrome is increasing, she said.

An issue raised at the conference was consumers’ lack of calcium. “People started looking for substitutes for milk because they were told it was too fatty,” said Markis.

“The majority of calcium that goes to our bones comes from dairy. When you don’t have enough calcium it’ll pull it from your muscles and that ends up being a big problem because you get muscle wasting,” she said.

Weight management and portion control are crucial factors in preventing metabolic syndrome. “There’s evidence that calcium may play a role in helping you control your weight,” Dr. Ma said.

Another topic dealt with was fats. Saturated fats, like the ones found in junk food “are bad for you, but they actually have no connection to cardiovascular disease,” said Effat. “Saturated fat is a good source of energy; high amounts can lead to obesity and disease. But on its own it may not be as bad,” Dr. Ma added.

Don’t overconsume or “cut out” everything from your diet, said Effat. Calcium and fats “are useful in preventing cardiovascular disease” if consumed in the right amount, Markis said.

“Chronic disease is on epidemic levels, we need to focus on the prevention side, promoting healthy life habits instead of waiting for the next miracle drug or diet to solve our problems,” said Dr. Ma.  It is easier for consumers “to treat metabolic syndrome than a cardiovascular disease, small signs like weight gain could be reversed by lifestyle modifications,” he said.

“There are multiple things you could do to prevent metabolic syndrome” such as exercise and eating right, that he said would “prevent you from being in that position where you need to rely on medications.” It’s all about preventative healthcare which Canada is trying to move towards,” said Markis.

“Too much of anything is detrimental whether that is healthy food. The take home message for consumers is everything in moderation,” said Markis.

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Leyah Mirza hopes to inspire others with her stories.

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