Nutrition Glossary (cont.)

Calcium deficiency: A low blood calcium (hypocalcemia). Hypocalcemia makes the nervous system highly irritable with tetany (spasms of the hands and feet, muscle cramps, abdominal cramps, overly active reflexes, etc.). Chronic calcium deficiency contributes to poor mineralization of bones, soft bones (osteomalacia) and osteoporosis; and, in children, rickets and impaired growth. Food sources of calcium include dairy foods, some leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and collards, canned salmon, clams, oysters, calcium-fortified foods, and tofu. According to the National Academy of Sciences, adequate intake of calcium is 1 gram daily for both men and women. The upper limit for calcium intake is 2.5 grams daily.

Calorie: A unit of food energy. In nutrition terms, the word calorie is used instead of the more precise scientific term kilocalorie. A kilocalorie represents the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a liter of water one degree centigrade at sea level. Technically, however, this common usage of the word calorie of food energy is understood to refer to a kilocalorie (and actually represents, therefore, 1000 true calories of energy).

Carbohydrate: One of the three nutrients that are used as energy sources (calories) by the body. (The other energy sources are in the form of fats and proteins. Carbohydrates come in the form of simple sugars and complex forms, such as starches and fiber. Complex carbohydrates come naturally from plants. Intake of complex carbohydrates can lower blood cholesterol when they are substituted for saturated fat. The energy produced by carbohydrates is 4 calories per gram. Proteins also provide 4 calories per gram, while fats provide 9 calories per gram.

Carbohydrate loading: Carbohydrate loading is a technique used to increase the amount of glycogen in muscles. For five to seven days before an event, the athlete eats 10-12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight, while gradually reducing the intensity of workouts. (To find out how much you weigh in kilograms, simply divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.)The day before the event, the athlete rests and eats the same high- carbohydrate diet. Most athletes should not worry about carbohydrate loading. If they eat a diet that derives more than half of its calories from carbohydrates, their body will have adequate levels to fuel their athletic activity. Carbohydrate loading may be beneficial for athletes engaged in endurance sports which require 90 minutes or more of non-stop effort.

Celiac Disease:A disorder resulting from an immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains, and present in many foods. Celiac disease causes impaired absorption and digestion of nutrients through the small intestine. Symptoms include frequent diarrhea and weight loss. A skin condition dermatitis herpetiformis can be associated with celiac disease. The most accurate test for celiac disease is a biopsy of the involved small bowel. Treatment is to avoid gluten in the diet. Medications are used for refractory (stubborn) celiac disease.

Cholesterol: The most common type of steroid in the body, cholesterol has gotten something of a bad name. However, cholesterol is a critically important molecule. It is essential to the formation of:

  • Bile acids (which aid in the digestion of fats)
  • Vitamin D
  • Progesterone
  • Estrogens (estradiol, estrone, estriol)
  • Androgens (androsterone, testosterone)
  • Mineralocorticoid hormones (aldosterone, corticosterone) and
  • Glucocorticoid hormones (cortisol).

Cholesterol is also necessary to the normal permeability and function of cell membranes, the membranes that surround cells.

Cholesterol is carried in the bloodstream as lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol because elevated LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of coronary artery (heart) disease. Conversely, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol since high HDL levels are associated with less coronary disease.

After the age of 20, cholesterol testing is recommended every 5 years.

A diet high in saturated fats tends to increase the blood cholesterol levels while diets high in unsaturated fats tend to do the opposite, to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Although some cholesterol is obtained from the diet, most cholesterol is made in the liver and other tissues. The treatment of elevated cholesterol therefore involves not only diet but also weight loss and regular exercise (and, occasionally, medications).

Chondroitin Sulfate: A glycosaminoglycan (formerly called a mucopolysaccharide) found in cartilage, bone, blood vessels and connective tissues. There are two forms: chondroitin sulfate A and chondroitin sulfate C. One or both types accumulate abnormally in several of the mucopolysaccharidosis disorders. Chondroitin sulfate B is now called dermatan sulfate.

DASH Diet: An eating plan designed to lower the blood pressure. DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH "combination diet" has been shown to decrease the blood pressure and so helps prevent and control high blood pressure. The DASH "combination diet" is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods, and low in saturated and total fat. It also is low in cholesterol, high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and moderately high in protein.