Nutrition & our guts!

Guts UK spoke with Dr. Alastair McKinlay, the President of the British Society of Gastroenterology about nutrition and our digestive system.

“Nutrition is fundamental to life and health.

Without food, we die. But the dietary choices we make and others make for us, from birth to grave, determine not only our lifespan but also our quality of life. So if nutrition is that important, why is relatively little fundamental research carried out?

Mainly because the interaction between diet, nutrition and disease is complex. Take ‘coffee and the liver’ as an example. Despite a few scares over the years, there is little evidence that coffee causes any harm. Most studies suggest that in moderate amounts there may be benefits, but there are often confounding factors that can cause confusion. Nobody lives entirely on coffee, (even doctors!) It is always part of our more complex diet.

The big gains in health over the coming 50 years will be around our diet and its interaction with obesity and disease.

Progress is not going to come from one huge study, but from lots of studies chipping away at the problem. That is why research grants from Guts UK are so welcome.

Why do I still get excited about nutrition? It’s the breadth of the subject, its complexity and the challenges that come with it. That is why it is so important to explain things clearly to the public. In the day and age of the internet, it’s easier than ever to access false and incorrect information about diet, nutrition and digestive diseases. When we’re told conflicting information from a variety of sources that all seem reliable, we understandably become confused. That’s why it’s more important than ever that charities like Guts UK exist, leading the way to provide evidence-based, expert information that is completely reliable.

I am married to a dietitian, too. As my late father-in-law once said, we were the only two people he knew who had, “found the way to each other’s hearts through other people’s stomachs.”

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