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Malnutrition and Mall nutrition leading to suppressed immunity: EON "DINI AXIS" Study

Esperer Onco Nutrition Private Limited (EON) one of India's first nutritional companies with its team of scientists is collecting evidence on the relationship between Diet Infections Nutrition Immunity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which the company is persuading as a concept called the "DINI AXIS". 

The world has witnessed a rapid rise in nutrition-related disorders scientists at EON believe that a bad diet is another form of malnutrition where the overconsumption of saturated fats and refined sugar has a detrimental effect on the immune system. Our age, sex, infection history, genetics can affect our immune system and make us more prone to disease.

Sadly the world has been witnessing a trend in the consumption of high fats, sugars and salts which have now led to the suppression of the immune system. Leading to the inability of the immune system to mount an effective attack increases the risk of disease and the ability of the body to recover over chronic exposures.

The immune system is designed to detect and destroy foreign invaders inside the body like bacteria and viruses. When working optimally, the immune system can prevent sickness when we're exposed to germs. Several factors like sleep, diet, stress and hygiene can affect the immune system's performance, and any offsets in these behaviours can cause havoc on immune function. Often the impact of these factors go unnoticed, but if you tend to get sick after a big project at work or during finals at school, it's likely because your immune system has suffered due to stress, lack of sleep, binge eating or unhygienic behaviours.

Overall there may be two factors leading to a suppressed immune system and today we are facing a dual burden because of the same. One is malnutrition which may be clearly due to reduced availability of food across the certain lower socio-economic strata or any underlying disease condition. Reduced food also translates to lower proteins and micronutrients –directly proportionate to increased infections and lowered immunity.

The second factor is mall nutrition where once there is an energy abundance due high fat, sugar, salt food the body is still very depleted in micronutrients which creates the entire concept of hidden hunger where despite having extra calories, there is a significant shortfall of Proteins, micronutrients like zinc, selenium, iron, Magnesium which would fight infections and increase immunity. 

Comprehensive research reflects diet high in refined sugar, salt, high fat and refined carbohydrates could lead to an unusual activation of T cells. T cells as we all know have a direct impact on our immune system .Higher the fat in the body the lesser the T cells production and obesity is directly related to lower immune responses. 

In an Indian scenario, 73% of population is protein deficient –thereby leading to sarcopenic which means we have lesser muscles or lean body mass. Most Indians consume around 60 to 70 % carbohydrates in their diet and only 8 to 12 % of protein and 20 to 25 % of fat. This ratio needs to change because our dependence on carbohydrates is extremely high and protein intake is skimmed. The low Skeletal muscle mass is directly proportionate to reduced immunity and higher rates of infections.

It may be prudent to change the portion of protein to at least 15-20% of total energy. This can be achieved easily by incorporating additional serves of pulses, curd, nuts, dairy, lean meats like fish and chicken whilst reduction of refined carbohydrates.

Impactful correlations as reflected by Body Impedance analysis studies Increase in Physical activity and resistant endurance exercises also elevate 

Increasing fibre and increasing the colour from various fruits and vegetables basically "Eat Your Rainbow" as we often say increases the natural nutrients and antioxidants in the diet.

The Mediterranean diet was also found to be a perfect example of how to use fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthier fats like olive oil and fish to reduce the inflammation. High Saturated fats and trans fats can be switched healthier fats like omega 3 is important. Sources of omega 3 fats would include nuts, fish and oilseeds which should be included on a daily in the diet thereby positively reducing inflammation.

Around 70% of our immune system is located in our gut. Gut bacteria also crowd out pathogenic bacteria, prevent them from adhering to the gut lining and gaining entry, as well as producing lactic acid which helps stop harmful bacteria growing. To encourage good bacteria, eat plenty of fibrous and pre-biotic foods such as bananas, oats, brown rice, millets, flax seeds, walnuts are particularly good

Some other studies are based on improving gut health and increasing the pre-biotic and pro-biotic composition. Typically when one is looking at pre-biotic composition the moment one increases the intake of fruits and whole cereals, millets, nuts like walnuts, seeds like flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. Enhancing your pre-biotic levels which create a base for the probiotic bacteria to grow thereby helping in improving gut health. 

Scientific studies indicate a change in dietary habit from highly refined carbohydrates, High saturated fat and trans fats to a plant-based diet which is high in fibre, whole foods, pulses, millets, nuts, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables can initiate a positive change the environment of the gut in as less as 5-7 days

Increase intake of trans fats is another trend that is being witnessed today due a lot of consumption of refined foods especially bakery products, street foods, order-in menus owing to which a lot of trans fats creep into ones diet and this creates a lot of inflammation which is directly linked to heart disease to diabetes and other chronic conditions. Trans fats typically contribute to a lot of insulin resistance which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes even small amounts of trans fats can harm one's health. Every two 2 calories from trans fats daily can increase the risk of heart disease and significantly impact inflammation so it is advisable to avoid trans fats. 

Coming to saturated fats some amount of saturated fats less than 10% of the total calories consumed is allowed. However one should be careful while consuming trans fats from meat products specially marbling of the meat and skin of the chicken as all of these are completely harmful and should be deleted from the diet. 

In conclusion, the two major studies narrowed down to showing that just replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats like the vegetable fats is healthy. In an Indian scenario we could consider rice bran oil, ground nut oil and if a family is used to mustard oil or til oil they should continue to use the same this would help in reducing risk of disease along with the reduction of highly processed carbohydrates.

To counter a wrong diet EON looked at nutrition-based solutions where it found that a plant-based diet is highly anti-inflammatory. Studies show vitamins C, A, E, B6 and B12 and minerals like iron and zinc are important for the maintenance of immune function.

Maximise immune supportive nutrients

  • Vitamin C enhances white blood cells response, increases interferon levels and improves the integrity of the mucous membranes.
  • Vitamin A plays an essential role in the health of the skin and mucosal barriers as well as enhancing white blood cell function, antibody response and thymus function.
  • Vitamin E is vital for both cell-mediated and antibody related immunity, and deficiency results in significant impairment of immune function.
  • Deficiency in B6, B12 and folic acid impairs immune function and immune response.
  • Zinc promotes destruction of foreign particles, is required for proper functioning of white blood cells and activates immune enhancing thymus hormone.
In Conclusion, the concept of a wrong diet automatically induces infection the infection when continued in the body over a long period of time i.e. in a chronic stage along with depleted micro nutrient content in the body eventually leads to a state of inflammation and hence the concept of the DINI Axis is a is a very striking one as it connects all the dots together. 


Article by Dr.Naaznin Husein, Principal Coordinator: Nutrition and Dietetics, EON

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