The emergence of pharmacology many decades ago had a far-reaching beneficial effect on the treatment of infectious diseases. As a result of the proliferation of pharmaceutical agents we were able to effectively control signs and symptoms. Drugs now have tailor-made efficacy and affinity for the tissue type in question, and can control the action and behaviour of the target cells. Such agents cannot, however, correct the malfunction stemming from disturbances in cellular biochemistry – this is the field of Clinical Nutrition.
As nutritional science has developed, so too have clinical applications. Clinical nutrition was initially limited to treating general malnutrition and specific nutritional deficiency states. In the past two decades, the field has gradually broadened to include the treatment of subclinical deficiencies and dependencies, as well as the provision of nutrients in larger doses and combined according to the synergism that occurs between micronutrients.
Scientific justification for an expanded definition of clinical nutrition has been considerably strengthened since then. Laboratory tests can provide evidence of inadequate nutrition despite the lack of clinical findings of classical nutritional deficiency syndromes. Even in the absence of laboratory validation of nutritional deficiencies, numerous studies utilizing rigorous scientific designs have demonstrated impressive benefits from nutritional supplementation. It is now well-established, for example, that nutritional factors are of major importance in the pathogenesis of both heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in Western countries, and studies validating their importance in the pathogenesis of many other diseases continue to be published.
The International Academy of Nutrition was established in 1980 to supply educational materials to help facilitate the spread of knowledge about clinical nutrition and the rapidly growing field of nutritional medicine. The Academy has enrolled 4,000 students since 1980.