President's column Vol.9

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栄養療法メディカルニュートリションってなんだ? 栄養療法メディカルニュートリションってなんだ?

What is nutritional therapy or medical nutrition?
It is said that humans can die after two weeks without food or drink.
What is this life-sustaining act of eating and drinking all about?

There is no simple answer to this question because it concerns nutritional science, chemical hygiene, medical chemistry as well as biochemistry.
In other words, it would take decades and decades to find the answer to this question, which involves all life’s phenomena.

Many of us living in this day and age take this process of eating and drinking to excess.
This overconsumption brings a myriad of health issues. The chemical reaction triggered by food and drink that takes place inside the human body is called metabolism.
Excessive consumption of food and drink ultimately causes irreversible pathological events.

Strokes, heart attacks, diabetic nephropathy and hepatic cirrhosis caused by fatty liver are a few of the diseases.
Dietary therapy is the method of preventing such conditions by controlling the amount and type of food and drink we consume.
On the other hand, nutritional therapy or medical nutrition is for people that have already developed such ailments and require help in taking in nutrients necessary for treatment and recovery.

Nutritional therapy has now come to play a crucial role in the medical scene, not just in Japan but all over the world. For example, nutritional therapy is often practiced to prevent or treat bedsores and to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

There are three ways to take in nutrients:
1. Intake via the mouth and swallowing
2. Intake via a tube connected to the stomach
3. Injection of a fully fortified formula directly into the bloodstream

The above categories are subdivided even further since, in nutritional therapy, they are each tailored according to the illness.

As seen in the following table, nutritional therapy is based on the intake of nutrients according to the pathological condition (column) and the method of intake (row). There are countless possible combinations.

  Condition A Condition B Condition C ・・・
Oral ・・・ ・・・ ・・・ ・・・
Tube ・・・ ・・・ ・・・ ・・・
Intravenous ・・・ ・・・ ・・・ ・・・

Think about it! Consider the food that lies randomly in front of you.

Say there is simmered hijiki, lettuce, cooked gizzards, deep-fried tofu, sea urchin, brown rice, etc., etc.
Everything that we take in is digested in the stomach.
What we extract from the food becomes sorted out and what is considered necessary gets sent to the blood through a complex route of transportation specially prepared for each meal.
The nutrients then become absorbed by the system and biosynthesized to be harmoniously taken in by the living organism.

The intestinal epithelial cells, which form the route to transport the nutrients are sloughed away each time, and the cells become renewed for the next meal.

It is said that these life phenomena follow the evolution of life that dates back 3.6 billion years.
Such research is comparable to an astrophysicist looking into the telescope to observe the universe.
Today, research on nutritional therapy is being carried out extensively in Japan.
One of the largest active groups in the field is the Japanese Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. There are around 30,000 members, a third of which gather once a year for the general assembly. What is unique about this organization is that the members consist of professionals from various backgrounds, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, physical therapists and speech therapists. The group is indeed representative of the entire medical profession.

There are a number of nutrition-related organizations, such as the Japan Society of Metabolism and Clinical Nutrition, the Japanese Society for Surgical Metabolism and Nutrition and the Japanese Society of Clinical Nutrition.

As we enter a super-aging society and face increasing medical expenses, we look forward to the further development of nutritional therapy, or medical nutrition, to realize a smarter way to offer medical services.

A video on nutritional therapy is available on the following page.

「Medical Nutrition ~The World of Nutritional Therapy~」

June 2012

Author: Susumu Kawaguchi

Chairman & CEO

Nutri Co., Ltd.

Illustrator: Nakajo Junichi