Biology is perhaps the broadest topic in all of science, this is certainly the case for this grand challenge as well. From a biologists point of view, this problem simply comes down to: what can a person eat that will cause their body to work most efficiently? Obviously, it is much more complicated than that. Whether it is the metabolic pathways that break down the food, the physiological effects of different foods, the genetic pre-dispositions of certain people to certain foods, and even how the food is grown and processed all fall under the broad category of biology. As the two biologists of the group, we decided to focus our research on the food science and physiological/disease biological aspect of the challenge.
Nutrition plays a large role in the human body. Food provides the human body with energy to carry out everyday activities. Consuming food filled with fats can lead to obesity, and obesity can lead to diabetes and other diseases. Numerous Americans are now obese. Over the past 35 years, obesity rates for adults have doubled while obesity rates for children have tripled. People tend to eat fast food because it is easier than cooking a meal at home. Also, it saves precious time that individuals need. The nutritional value of fast food provides more “total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and less fiber and calcium per unit energy” (Fuss). Those who consume high fat foods are consuming excess energy, which in turn leads to weight gain. Fast food is served in larger portions, which causes one to consume more fat unknowingly. One needs to be cautious with the amount of food consumption. Early-life nutrition also plays a large role in the future health of an individual. Evidence that was found proved that early-life nutrition plays a role in whether an individual is susceptible to developing “coronary heart disease, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, lung disease, and some forms of cancer” (Evans). In 2012, the World Health Organization published their goals and targets for the year. One of their goals was to improve the nutrition of infants, young children, and mothers to ensure a longer, healthier life.
Beginning to eat healthy at an early age can be beneficial in the long-run. Obesity occurs when the caloric intake is greater than the caloric output. The body has a tremendous capacity to store the extra calories as fat. Obesity can lead to many diseases, but there is evidence that obesity can lead to the disease, diabetes. There are two types: Type 1 and Type 2. A Type 1 diabetic is unable to produce beta cells. The beta cells are responsible for secreting insulin, and insulin is released when blood glucose level is high. The goal of insulin is to bring the blood glucose level down. A Type 2 diabetic can produce and secrete insulin, but not enough to bring the blood glucose level down. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, while Type 2 diabetes is caused by obesity.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the caloric intake is greater than the caloric output. As a result, excess energy is stored as fat. There are two parts to Type 2 diabetes: central and peripheral. Central has to do with the secretion of insulin, and peripheral focuses on the response to insulin secretion, specifically the skeletal muscle and the liver. In central, there is a lot of excess energy. When an individual consumes a large amount of sugar, a lot of insulin will be released. The beta cells are overworked, and antioxidants will be replaced by reactive oxygen species. Antioxidants are responsible for removing damaging oxidizing agents in the body. Reactive oxygen species (free radicals) can cause damage to the cell. The unpaired electron causes them to be reactive and cause damage to lipids. As a result, reactive oxygen species will cause apoptosis of beta cells. If beta cells start to die, insulin will not be released. If insulin is not released, the blood glucose level will remain high. The peripheral response has to do with how fat impacts the endoplasmic reticulum. If there is an increase in fat, both the skeletal muscle and the liver will take it in. This will impact the endoplasmic reticulum by decreasing the number of insulin receptors. If there are less insulin receptors in the body, the insulin response will decrease. As a result, blood glucose levels remain high, which leads to deleterious effects. A Type 2 diabetic can experience neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, and an increased risk of heart disease. The treatment for Type 2 diabetes is injecting insulin and exercising aerobically. All of this occurs because of obesity.
Numerous individuals in America are obese, including children. If one is careful about the food that they consume, terrible diseases can be avoided. Unhealthy eating leads to cells in the body losing their function, and eventually dying. Both children and adults need to be careful about their caloric intake. The consumption of food affects the future of our lives.