Zenaida Velasco busts health myths and fills us in on what people should really be doing to keep in tip- top shape
“The future trend in the battle of the bulge is not only to look into nutrition and exercise but how to manage stress.”
What’s a regular day in the clinic for you like?
I wear two hats: one as a nutritionistdietitian and the other as a psychologist. Diet compliance is very important in diet counseling, and one way to enhance compliance is to understand the dynamics of the client.
All clients have to undergo nutritional assessment, starting from knowing body mass index, doing biochemical tests, and looking for clinical signs of nutrient deficiency to taking a look at what the client eats— both quantitatively and qualitatively. I do a nutrition care process very similar to what other dietitians do in the US. It involves assessment, diagnosis, intervention, monitoring, and evaluation. Consultations done at the Nutrition and Emotional Wellness Center in Ortigas are highly individualized and private.
How has technology affected your profession and the health industry?
Social media has created quantum awareness about food, nutrition, health, and even wellness. The field of weight management has gathered much attention and this, in part, is related to body image, social acceptance, and even job opportunities. Young people may be vulnerable to advertising claims that are simply myths and not facts. The recent trends have led young people to join fun runs, Zumba, and other activities to support a worthy cause.
The world of nutrition is now undergoing gadgetization to monitor caloric consumption, energy expenditure, and other health parameters. Apps that can compute the number of calories in the food you have eaten are now available, with caloric content determined by users sending a snapshot of the dish.
But in matters related to nutrition, it is still best that people consult with the experts—registered nutritionist-dietitians who have autonomy in this profession, who can give sound nutritional advice and evidenced-based practices.
What is the state of health and nutrition now in the Philippines’ food scene?
In the Philippines, we have the triple burdens of disease: undernutrition, overnutrition, and the dramatic increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and lifestyle-related diseases. The number one leading cause of death is still heart disease. One person dies of stroke every nine minutes, and 276 Filipinos die every day of heart disease. While breast cancer is still the leading cause of death among women, lung cancer is the leading cause of death for both genders. In terms of consumption of unhealthy diets and take-away foods, the Philippines ranks third, with Hong Kong topping the list. What’s an upcoming health trend? The future trend in the battle of the bulge is not only to look into nutrition and exercise but how to manage stress— an aspect of everyday life. Stress impacts nutrition, our food choices, and the ability of the body to digest, absorb, and use the foods that we eat, where the fats will be stored and deposited ( mostly as belly fat), and the successful control of NCDs. An effective stress management program will lead to a reduction in obesity— the contributing factor to heart attack, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
The trend will favor gut health. “All diseases begin in the gut,” according to Hippocrates, where 80 percent of our immune cells are found. An alteration of the gut flora can predict diabetes, protect against stroke, improve weight loss, bring about natural death of cancer cells, and delay complications from other disorders and diseases including Alzheimer’s.