A healthy body goes hand in hand with a person’s healthy lifestyle whose characteristics include someone who does not smoke, has a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25, eats 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and has daily exercise (9). The World Health Organisation (WHO) classify values outside of the normal parameters as being underweight if the value is below 18.5 while values exceeding 25 are considered to be overweight (14). To put this into context, it is reported by the Northern Ireland (NI) Executive that 450 deaths in NI were caused by obesity in 2010 while Trevedi (2006) estimates that 75% of worldwide deaths from non-contagious diseases will be related to an unhealthy diet by 2020 (8,13).
Primarily this essay will evaluate how diet and exercise maintain a healthy body but will also acknowledge the factors that exert pressure on the parameters of this phenomenon that society is obsessed with.
A balanced diet is defined as having all seven nutrients present in the correct proportions. We gain most of our energy from carbohydrates but fat and protein also contribute to the release of energy. The recommended daily calorie consumption for men is 2500 while a woman’s is 2000. Metabolic rate influences the health of a body. Metabolism is the rate at which the cells in our body utilise the energy we consume in our food to sustain the chemical reactions necessary for our survival. The energy required should equal the energy used, otherwise excess energy will be stored as body fat. Macronutrients are essential in large amounts compared to vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) which are required in much smaller amounts. It is the imbalance of these nutrients that cause malnutritional disorders such as starvation or obesity.
The media have over-sensitized the importance of cholesterol in the diet as having negative consequences. Cholesterol is ingested as animal fat rich in saturated fatty acids, however, our liver will manufacture cholesterol naturally as we sleep. Cholesterol is carried in the blood as high-density lipoproteins (HDL’s) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL’s). HDL’s help reduce cholesterol by transporting cholesterol from tissues reducing the risk of heart disease while LDL’s transport cholesterol from the liver to be deposited in the walls of the artery leading to an atheroma and eventually Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). It is the balance of HDL/LDL’s that determines if a person will be healthy or not (12).
Smokers have a greater risk of having CHD or a stroke due to the chemical nicotine that stimulates the release of adrenaline, increasing heart rate and raises blood pressure. An increase of blood pressure can cause an aneurysm. This is when the wall of an artery becomes thicker and hardens, hindering blood flow causing them to burst, resulting in a haemorrhage (12). Alcohol has historically been known to be a contributing factor to CHD but Corder (2007) found that HDL cholesterol is actually increased in consumers of red wine compared to non-drinkers but caution is required as a small number of individuals in his study only saw a small increase of HDL’s (3). Other factors leading to CHD include a high salt intake and stress which both contribute to a rise in blood pressure.
Heightened awareness and education surrounding a healthy diet requires caution by the public towards advertising of products to help maintain a healthy body. One such case surrounds vitamin supplements. Schaschke’s (2008) study found that people take vitamin supplements so that ‘they will be healthier and more energetic, have stronger immune systems, and will be able to ward off or cure cancer, or even prevent rheumatism” (10). However, Schaschke’s later study (2009) provides evidence to suggest that “vitamins from food (rather than in supplement form) interact positively with… plant pigments and that is why you are encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruit and...