Parkway Cancer Centre’s Senior Dietitian Fahma Sunarja explains the risks of not having proper nutrition.

It is important for everyone to eat well – a balanced daily diet is critical to optimal health.

This is even more crucial if you are being treated for cancer or have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and heart conditions.

Yet many people do not eat properly.

Studies have shown that many in Singapore, especially those who are chronically ill, are nutrition-deficient. This is despite the fact that nutritious food is not only readily available but also affordable.

Why does this happen?

One factor is lifestyle. Many people are busy at work or school, and eat out often. More often than not, they choose what is convenient or what they like rather than what is good for them. For example, many adults and children like fast food – fried chicken, fries and soft drinks. But they are high in saturated fat and lacking in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Processed food and instant food are also popular because they save time and are convenient. But such foods have usually gone through extensive processing, and tend to have preservatives, colouring and other artificial ingredients.

Over the long term, such diets will lead to nutrition deficiency – and in some cases, cause or worsen some chronic illnesses.

Poor nutrition can cause disease

In an attempt to eat more healthily, people with heart problems or high cholesterol may unknowingly cut down too much on their intake of meat, shellfish, eggs and dairy products. In the long term, this can lead to their not getting enough nutrients such as iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12 – which can lead to anaemia.

Calcium deficiency is another common problem. Those people who have lactose intolerance or just do not like drinking milk, may skip dairy products. If they do not replace them with an alternative source of calcium, they may run a risk of developing osteopenia or even osteoporosis.

For people already suffering from diabetes, proper nutrition is even more critical.

If you have diabetes and do not eat well, your blood sugar may be difficult to control. In the long term, uncontrolled diabetes may lead to complications and problems affecting your heart, kidney or nervous system. These complications may mean even more dietary restrictions, which will make it even harder to eat well and improve your health.

Likewise, cancer patients who do not eat well or who follow restrictive diets may not get enough protein, iron and other important nutrients. This may lead to some nutrients deficiency and the immune system may be affected, resulting in the delay of treatment and overall treatment outcome.

Pictures: Taken from “Awakening the appetite”, a recipe book published by Parkway Cancer Centre



Tags: anaemia, cancer diet & nutrition, healthy food & cooking