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.

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