Importance of Nutrients and Nutrient Metabolism on Human Health

Yale J Biol Med. 2018 Jun 28;91(2):95-103. eCollection 2018 Jun.


Nutrition transition, which includes a change from consumption of traditional to modern diets that feature high-energy density and low nutrient diversity, is associated with acquired metabolic syndromes. The human diet is comprised of diverse components which include both nutrients, supplying the raw materials that drive multiple metabolic processes in every cell of the body, and non-nutrients. These components and their metabolites can also regulate gene expression and cellular function via a variety of mechanisms. Some of these components are beneficial while others have toxic effects. Studies have found that persistent disturbance of nutrient metabolism and/or energy homeostasis, caused by either nutrient deficiency or excess, induces cellular stress leading to metabolic dysregulation and tissue damage, and eventually to development of acquired metabolic syndromes. It is now evident that metabolism is influenced by extrinsic factors (e.g., food, xenobiotics, environment), intrinsic factors (e.g., sex, age, gene variations) as well as host/microbiota interaction, that together modify the risk for developing various acquired metabolic diseases. It is also becoming apparent that intake of diets with low-energy density but high in nutrient diversity may be the key to promoting and maintaining optimal health.

Keywords: Cellular stress coping responses; Dietary patterns; Gene function; Metabolic syndromes; Metabolism; Nutrient diversity; Nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome

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