Nutrology is the medical specialty that studies the nutrients in food and their impact on the body. This specialty evaluates the benefits and harm caused by the ingestion of nutrients, in order to help maintain health and reduce the risk of disease. The medical specialist in this area is the nutrologist, responsible for the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases related to the lack or excess of these nutrients. Nutrologists can diagnose and treat, for example, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. In addition, they can identify possible errors in diet and lifestyle habits, promoting important changes for the benefit of health.
In oncology, the work of the nutrologist is extremely important, since cancer patients tend to lose weight and, therefore, present nutritional deficiencies. This happens because, although they suffer an increased metabolic demand, usually there is a relevant appetite reduction. There is also an alteration in taste, in addition to side effects of the treatment, such as nausea and vomiting, which contribute to accentuated weight loss.
In this sense, the nutrologist’s follow-up contributes to promoting weight gain and recovery of nutritional status, which is fundamental for a good evolution of the oncologic treatment. The goals of the doctors who work with nutrology are to know and show the basic and fundamental functions of nutrients in growth, physical and mental development, and to prevent chronic diseases, as well as to ensure the health and quality of life of patients.
The difference between a nutrologist and a nutritionist
There is often confusion between the role of the nutritionist and that of the nutrologist. While the nutrologist, who has medical training, aims to evaluate, through medical exams, the patient’s health and offer guidance for a more balanced diet and for health preservation, the nutritionist, who has a degree in nutrition, puts together an individualized diet, correcting the proportions of the nutrients ingested. Therefore, it is very common for the two professionals to work together.
Although they are professionals of different specialties, nutrologist and nutritionist together are responsible for defining the nutritional status of the patient being treated, as well as his anthropometry. With this information, it is possible to define the appropriate energy and protein volume for the patient’s recovery during therapy and to establish the menu to be followed, respecting individual preferences and the behavior of the disease.
The nutrologist will also guide the patient in relation to their eating habits, such as frequency of meals, foods that should be included or avoided, and even care with hydration, all taking into account the stage of the disease and treatment.
The oncologic treatment can be extremely stressful for the patient, and, therefore, the nutrologist also acts as a very important professional to indicate the best way to minimize the side effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and the advance of malnutrition. With changes in diet and the use of supplements, it is possible to minimize symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, feelings of weakness, and irritation in the mucous membrane and mouth.
By also being responsible for the treatment of diet-related diseases, such as obesity, the Nutrology professional has a fundamental role in the prevention of cancer cases. According to the National Cancer Institute José Alencar Gomes da Silva (INCA), today obesity is seen as one of the main risk factors for the disease.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) also point out that 13% of cancer cases in Brazil are attributed to being overweight. The excess body fat represents a risk for the development of at least 13 types of cancer, such as esophagus (adenocarcinoma), stomach (cardia), pancreas, gallbladder, liver, intestine (colon and rectum), kidneys, breast (postmenopausal women), ovary, endometrium, meningioma, thyroid and multiple myeloma.
This is because excess body fat causes a state of chronic inflammation and increases the levels of hormones in the body that promote the growth of cancer cells.
The prevalence of excess body weight has increased in recent decades in Brazil. According to the National Health Survey, released in October 2020, in 2019, 55.4% of the adult population was overweight. This causes direct impacts on the SUS. Of the R$3.4 billion spent by SUS in 2018 on oncology treatment, R$1.4 billion (or 41.1%) was on therapies against cancers associated with being overweight, mainly malignant tumors of the breast, large intestine (colorectal), and endometrium.
SCIELO, Nutrologia, especialidade médica https://www.scielo.br/j/ramb/a/fNjNwbCMp3CknGXBRvRfgtw/?lang=pt