“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” - Nelson Mandela
The most exciting part about preparing to become a Registered Dietitian is constantly learning. As a seeker of knowledge, becoming a part of a community of professionals who are devoted to being up to date with the current research and trends is invigorating. That means there will always be room to grow throughout the course of my career.
An area of Dietetics that I am especially interested in is Maternal and Child Nutrition (MCN). During my (first) undergraduate career I was enrolled in a MCN course, and it was absolutely fascinating. The human body's ability to adapt and change in order to create a new life is astonishing, and nutritional needs and concerns are no exception to this upheaval.
While scientists have known for ages that maternal nutrition status affects fetal development, there is limited research available to offer specifics into exactly how and when nutrients come into play. Now, scientists at the University of Southampton's Faculty of Medicine have discovered that a woman's diet affects the nutrient composition of the fluid in her womb, even if she isn't pregnant.
Uterine fluid nurtures the embryo, and this is the first study published showing that diet can alter the nutrient composition of human uterine fluid. Early embryo environment is so important for development and future health. This report has the potential to aid in the development of nutritional interventions, and possibly spur further research and lead to more groundbreaking evidence.
Good health literally begins at the beginning of life. With more research, it may be possible to identify high-risk scenarios and intervene before conception.
Education is indeed a powerful tool, and the more we learn the better our chances of changing the world will be.
Public health policies have the ability to substantially improve the health of…well, the public. Health practitioners and researchers team up to identify and improve effective policies or terminate the poor ones. Some policies have saved millions of dollars in healthcare costs.
One example of an effective nutrition public policy is the 1998 United States FDA mandate of fortifying cereal grain products with 140 µg of folic acid. In 1992, the U.S. Public Health Service began recommending that all women capable of becoming pregnant consume 400 µg of folic acid daily in order to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs are major birth defects of the brain and spine that occur in early pregnancy, and can lead to death or varying degrees of disability.
Lifetime direct costs of spina bifida, one of the two most common NTDs, are estimated around $560,000. Anencephaly, the other most common NTD, is a uniformly fatal condition and lifetime costs are estimated at $5,415. When considering that approximately 1,300 NTD-affected births are prevented annually, total direct cost savings can be estimated at approximately $508 million.
Immediately after implementation (1999-2000) this policy was estimated to prevent 1,000 NTD pregnancies annually, but an update released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observes an increase to 1,300 averted cases. This could be due to an increase in the number of live births in recent years, or differences in surveillance methods.
However, it is important to note that although a reduction of NTDs has been observed, the prevalence among Hispanic women is consistently greater than that among other racial/ethnic groups. While genetic factors may affect the metabolism of folic acid in Hispanic women, this could possibly be attributed to cultural differences. Cereal grain products are not a traditional staple in the Hispanic diet, which is typically centered on grains such as corn and rice. According to the CDC, implementation of corn masa flour fortification would likely prevent an additional 40 cases of NTDs annually.
I am an advocate for consistency.
Rules, guidelines, expectations and benefits should equally apply to everyone. Ideally, the same opportunities would be available to everyone as well, but unfortunately that is not the world we live in (yet!!). However, it is possible to recognize discrepancies using research methods and to effect change through public policy.
As a future dietitian and health professional, I recognize the importance of equal opportunity and treatment for all.