University of California

What are the best strategies for achieving optimal nutrition?


Carl L. Keen
Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr

Authors Affiliations

C.L. Keen is Chair and Professor, Department of Nutrition, UC Davis; S. Zidenberg-Cherr is Nutrition Science Specialist, Department of Nutrition, UC Davis.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 54(5):12-18. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n05p12. September 2000.

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Defining “optimal nutrition” has become more complicated with the growing awareness that a healthy diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other diseases as well as avert nutritional disorders. In contrast to the previous federal government's recommended dietary allowances (RDA), the newer dietary reference intake (DRI) committees are basing nutrient requirements on the contemporary concept of reducing disease risks as well as preventing nutrient deficiencies. Even when USDA food pyramid guidelines are followed, it can be difficult to meet current recommended intakes for essential nutrients. Rather than being rare, marginal nutritional deficiencies in the United States may in fact be quite common. For example, “suboptimal” maternal nutrition can be a significant factor underlying some pregnancy complications such as birth defects, yet a significant proportion of women of child-bearing age do not get sufficient nutrients from their diets. New programs are needed to improve the diets of pregnant women, as well as those of women who are planning pregnancy. In addition to recognized essential micronutrients, if protective dietary phytochemicals are identified, should we try to modify the content of foods, take dietary supplements or simply alter our diets? In the near future, a combination of the three may be the best strategy. Even if new food fortification and supplement policies are promulgated, they should complement, not replace, educational and economic programs designed to improve the public's overall diet.


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Keen C, Zidenberg-Cherr S. 2000. What are the best strategies for achieving optimal nutrition?. Hilgardia 54(5):12-18. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n05p12
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