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254. Nutrition and Nutrients Issues

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Do you need food? No one would say that I don’t need food. So why do we need food? It is because essential nutrients we need come from outside sources, which we get through food, in order to live and lead a healthy life. Agriculture is a system artificially created to provide food efficiently, and an essential role of agriculture is to supply nutrition. Based on the premise that agriculture and nutrition are linked, this article briefly introduces some issues on nutrition and nutrients.

All forms of malnutrition, including undernourishment and micronutrition deficiency, not only have profound impact on the state of health but also have adverse effects such as loss of opportunities to obtain education due to delayed physical and brain development, lower labor productivity and reduced salary. On the other hand, overnutrition can also cause non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Malnutrition remains a serious and widespread problem, and not a single country in the world is free from this problem. In December of this year, Japan will host the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit 2021 to encourage international efforts to improve nutrition. As a host country, Japan is expected to play an important role and provide an opportunity to transform the way the world tackles the global challenge of malnutrition.

Humans use nutrients to get sufficient energy, to build body tissues, and to keep their bodies functioning and in good shape. Essential nutrients include carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins (three major nutrients), which are the sources of energy, and vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), which regulate the physical condition, and each of them works differently. In addition, there are functional ingredients called phytochemicals, which are not essential for maintaining normal physical function but have beneficial effects on health such as antioxidant properties and improvement of immunity.

There are aspects of nutrient supply in terms of quantity and quality, and it is important not only that there is no excess or deficiency in each nutrient, but also that various nutrients work in a complementary manner, so that nutritional balance is important. Therefore, it is desirable to consume a variety of foods in a well-balanced manner.

An article in the Japanese journal published by the Agricultural Upland Development Association provides basic knowledge of nutrition problems and nutrients. Please refer to the reference below.

Agricultural Upland Development Association (2021) Hatachi Nougyo (Upland Agriculture) No. 747: 21-25 (In Japanese)

Contributor: SHIRATORI Sakiko (Research Strategy Office)

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