There nutrition plays a fundamental role in prevention: many studies show how a healthy, correct and balanced diet helps both to stay healthy and to reduce mortality and the onset of cardiovascular and oncological diseases. It is necessary, however, to be combined withphysical activity.

But how much can nutrition impact a long life? There is one correlation between nutrition and longevity? Doctor Riccardo Caccialanzahead of the Clinical Nutrition Area at the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital, explains to us more about the role of nutrition in the field of prevention and how a healthy and correct diet can be an excellent ally for living a longer and healthier life.

Nutrition as a lever for disease prevention

“The role of nutrition in prevention is fundamental – says Dr. Caccialanza -. The world literature at the level of epidemiological studies demonstrates that, by following healthy eating patterns in line with the recommendation of the Mediterranean diet, one can reduce the incidence of mortality from cardiovascular diseases and oncological, which are the main causes of death.

Some English studies have shown that one can even think of a survival advantage of approximately 10 years, indicatively, between males and females. It’s solid data that shows how healthy eating is is of fundamental importance for reducing mortality and staying healthy. All this would be possible by following simple behavioral rules.

However, ours is a obesogenic system: the rate of childhood obesity is constantly growing, the consumption of processed foods and fast-food restaurants full of chemicals, preservatives and fats is constantly increasing. This also translates into higher cancer incidence rates in young populations.”

How nutrition impacts the functioning of the body

Correct nutrition is based on adequate consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and animal fat content and more, limiting simple sugars, sugary drinks and alcohol.

As the expert explains: “Proper nutrition allows the body to:

  • maintain a better immunological structure as the correlation between nutrition, nutritional status and immune system is very strong, allowing you to have a contained inflammatory structure at the molecular level. The latter, if in excess and unbalanced, constitutes a problem and is associated with a worsening and dysfunction of the regulatory and immune systems. There is therefore a greater susceptibility to tumors and cardiovascular diseases;
  • maintain the development of the muscular component it’s a reduction of excess adiposity/visceral fatwhich is associated with an increase in the inflammatory situation and consequently with a greater risk of the onset of vascular or metabolic pathologies”.

What is meant by correct nutrition

A correct diet consists of a balanced and varied diet. “More than avoiding foods such as meat and fish – specifies the specialist – you need to rely on:

  • quality;
  • frequency of consumption.

All while respecting sociality, tradition and the pleasure of food. The winning model is based on a constant combination of correct nutrition with physical activity as weight control, the first indicator, is associated with 2 factors:

  • what you consume in terms of protein, calories and nutrients in your diet;
  • what is consumed withphysical activity”.

In recent decades, however, there has been an increasing trend in calorie consumption of around 250 Kcal more per day (every 7 days you eat an extra day!) and an increasingly sedentary society, starting with children and young people who are increasingly smartphone-dependent.

Unfortunately, to date, this topic is still little known and poorly explored and its dissemination must be encouraged culture of early nutritional education since the first classes of primary school. There is little attention to the topic which should instead be explored at all levels. There are increasingly sedentary jobs and less free time which leads to an increase in the problem.”

TARSIN: a regional initiative on clinical nutrition

“In the Lombardy Region, the TARSINa technical table on nutritional health and prevention – concludes Caccialanza -. For the first time, in many years, a dialogue has begun with the clinical component.

In fact, there are several initiatives that have emerged, such as reevaluating the guidelines on hospital catering, which suggest that the nutrition part is acquiring more and more importance and relevance and the prospects seem better than in the past. In fact, a greater sensitivity has arisen regarding the oncology aspect where the first guidelines in this field for the nutritional aspect will be evaluated”.

Genos and clinical nutrition area: the experience of San Raffaele Hospital

San Raffaele Hospital has always been a leader in the field of prevention and, a year ago, it launched Genos, a new Center for Personalized and Preventive Medicine: “Ambitious project, which aims to make the individual an active protagonist of his own health starting from an awareness of his own lifestyle on which a health education program is established – states Dr. Federica Invernizzi, coordinator of the internal medicine team of the Center -.

Within this path, a fundamental role is given tonutritional aspect: starting from a validated questionnaire, the degree of adherence to the Mediterranean diet is calculated and users are provided with tools to be able to follow a correct nutritional style with the aim of preventing many problems such as overweight, obesity, insulin resistance , hypercholesterolemia.

For those interested in learning more about the topic or for those individuals deemed ‘at high risk’ of problems related to incorrect eating habits, San Raffaele Hospital provides a nutritional clinic dedicated to the aspect of prevention.

In addition to this clinic, the Clinical Nutrition Area offers various dietetic-nutritional consultancy clinics divided into areas of expertise such as, for example:

  • the clinic dedicated to the metabolic area (obesity, overweight, diabetes, fatty liver);
  • the clinic dedicated to the allergy area (people with food allergies or intolerances)
  • the oncology area clinic with subdivision by anatomical districts (breast/gastrointestinal/thoracic, etc…).

Booking is open to the public via the dedicated call center and San Raffaele’s aim is also to offer a multidisciplinary approachto make the patient feel valued in their entirety, thanks to paths adhering to international scientific guidelines where clinicians direct the patient to the right clinic to build a personalized treatment plan”.