Nutritional status is essentially an assessment of a person’s body from a dietary standpoint, and is a test carried out by suitably qualified personnel.
Factors taken into account are what the person eats, the types of nutrient in their body and if there are enough of those nutrients to enable them to function efficiently.
More specifically, a nutritional status assessment looks at the essential nutrients. These come in two classes:
- Macronutrients – these are nutrients that generate the large amount of energy the body needs in order to grow and maintain itself. They are found in fats, protein and carbohydrates
- Micronutrients – found in vitamins and minerals, these play a vital role in the body’s general health and well-being
Other factors considered include physical appearance and the blood levels of various compounds. The former gives a dietician a lot of information. For example, the condition of a person’s skin, hair and nails offers clear clues as to how well nourished they are. The presence of normal amounts of fat and muscle does as well. The dietician can also check that the person’s weight is appropriate for their height, i.e. their body mass index (BMI).
A blood test is a more scientific method of assessing someone’s nutritional status. It does this by showing what’s in their blood and so, by extension, what’s in their body. For example, a person who is malnourished will have low levels of certain proteins. A high level of cholesterol indicates a person may drink too much alcohol. A blood test can also highlight irregularities in body functions that need to be treated with an appropriate diet.
Factors such as access to food, existing chronic conditions and the ability to eat food, are also indicators of nutritional status. As are certain medical conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, that limit a person’s ability to absorb nutrients from food they’ve eaten.
Sadly, despite the clear benefits of having their nutritional status assessed, very few people ever think to have it done. Indeed, many people have never even heard of it. In most cases, it’s the fact they are putting on excess weight that eventually persuades them something is amiss. However, if something is wrong internally, it won’t be so obvious.
For this reason, we suggest everyone should have their nutritional status checked periodically. Many people are shaken by the results.