Many Chronic Diseases Are Preventable through Eating Habits and Lifestyle: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
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CHICAGO – Preventing obesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers is possible through healthful eating habits and a physically active lifestyle, according to a newly updated position paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Because diseases can take many years – sometimes decades – to develop, the best prevention is early prevention.
The Academy's updated position paper "The Role of Nutrition in Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention" has been published in the July Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and can be found on the Academy's website. It states:
It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that primary prevention is the most effective and affordable method to prevent chronic disease, and that dietary intervention positively impacts health outcomes across the life span. Registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, registered, are critical members of health care teams and are essential to delivering nutrition-focused preventive services in clinical and community settings, advocating for policy and programmatic initiatives and leading research in disease prevention and health promotion.
"Primary prevention" means preventing disease risk factors, according to the Academy position paper authors, and it is critical for health promotion and chronic disease prevention. Nutrition and physical activity are essential elements of primary prevention at every stage of the life cycle. Healthful eating habits and a physically active lifestyle are two of the most important ways to prevent chronic disease. "Follow a healthy lifestyle throughout all stages of life," according to the authors.
To help make a healthier lifestyle the easier choice, the position paper's authors recommend people support and advocate for healthy environments where they shop, work and live, and advocate for policies supporting healthier environments.
"Get reliable information and support from credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners such as registered dietitian nutritionists and dietetic technicians, registered to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease," according to the authors. "RDNs and DTRs can help in developing school and workplace policies, community programs and cooking and shopping strategies for families and individuals."
The Academy's position paper emphasizes that primary prevention of chronic disease is especially important for members of minority populations, those with language or literacy barriers and people with limited socioeconomic resources, all of whom are at a greater risk.
Accompanying the Academy's position paper is a new practice paper to assist RDNs and DTRs in putting recommendations of the position paper to use with patients and clients. The new practice paper shows how RDNs, DTRs and others can apply the chronic disease prevention strategies for individuals and families as well as in community, institution and public policy settings. Practice papers are published on the Academy's website for members and are available to the public for purchase.
The Academy's position and practice papers were written by registered dietitian nutritionists Deborah Leachman Slawson, associate professor and chair of the department of community and behavioral health in the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University; Nurgul Fitzgerald, Assistant Professor in the department of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University; and dietetic technician, registered Kathleen T. Morgan, professor and chair of the department of family and community health sciences at Rutgers University.
All registered dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy’s Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian (RD) may optionally use “registered dietitian nutritionist” (RDN) instead. The two credentials have identical meanings.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.