Nutrition is defined as the science of how food nourishes the body (Sizer & Whitney, 2013). Disease is defined as, “An illness that affects a person, animal, or plant : a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally,” (Merriam-Webster: Disease Definition). To assume that good or bad nutrition has no relation to disease, would be a grave error.
There are two main categories of disease: infectious and chronic. Infectious diseases are those that spread easily from person to person and can affect large populations even to the point of morbidity. Although mankind has developed immunizations to protect us from many of these diseases, pneumonia and influenza are infectious diseases that are still listed among the top ten leading causes of death in the United States (Sizer & Whitney, 2013). Nutrition can’t prevent or cure infectious disease but good nutrition can help build immunities within the body to fight them.
Chronic diseases, according to the CDC, “are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems,” (Chronic Disease Overview, 2015). The top ten leading causes of death in the United States are as follow:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Kidney diseases
- Pneumonia and influenza
Many of these, seven of which are chronic, can be directly affected by nutrition and other lifestyle choices. The CDC lists the following four health behaviors that can be changed to positively impact these diseases: “lack of exercise or physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and drinking too much alcohol,” (Chronic Disease overview, 2015).
Malnutrition is also a large cause of death and it is not just limited to an all out lack of food as seen in areas of disparity. Malnutrition can even be attributed to conscious choices as in the cases of a desire to lose weight or eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Illness and lack of appetite can be factors as well. Malnutrition produces a negative effect on the immune system significantly weakening its ability to fight disease, illness, or the bodies ability to recover.