“Underlying health concerns”: Where mainstream and complementary healthcare can meet

As the term “underlying health concerns”​ dominates headlines how can “Nutritional Therapy”​ help alleviate the burden on current healthcare systems?

One of the things that has become increasingly apparent during this global pandemic is that a large percentage of the population seems to be labelled as having “underlying health concerns”. This term has been bandied around in every government briefing. It’s used unapologetically whenever mortality rates are discussed. Given almost as a reason for cause and effect. The question I’m more interested in is why are these conditions so prevalent, and so accepted in modern culture, when we know so much more about the factors influencing our health, and have so much more opportunity to live healthier lives?

These “underlying health concerns” include many which are typically driven by multi-factorial lifestyle and dietary choices such as overweight / obesity (High BMI), Type 2 Diabetes (Insulin & blood glucose dysregulation), and Cardiovascular concerns (including cholesterol imbalances and high blood pressure). Many of these concerns can be supported by qualified Nutritionists and other Complementary Therapists which are currently excluded from mainstream healthcare models. Nutritional Therapy protocols are used with great effect to support these exact conditions with evidence-based interventions. Yet these same mainstream healthcare providers are at capacity, were designed to treat patients with acute illness rather than chronic long-term conditions, and are not necessarily equipped to deliver dietary and lifestyle interventions. So is this the time for the two healthcare paradigms to finally meet in the middle?

As a Registered Nutritionist MSc, mBANT, CNHC, one of the first things I explain to clients is the role nutrition plays in preventative medicine, either as a means of limiting risk factors for illness, or helping manage symptoms as a complementary adjunct to traditional medicine. Nutrition can play an impactful part of any therapeutic protocol and, when it comes to the aforementioned underlying health concerns should absolutely be part of the clinical mix.

Now more than ever this concept is proving critical as we face a global health crisis. Currently preventative healthcare is in the spotlight, in terms of supporting our immune resilience to external pathogens and ability to fight infection. But more importantly, longer-term prevention of these “underlying health concerns” to improve population health and optimise individual health moving forward needs to be part of the discussion.

Adult obesity in England

The Health Survey for England 2017 estimated that 28.7% of adults in England are obese and a further 35.6% are overweight but not obese. Obesity is usually defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. BMI between 25 and 30 is classified as ‘overweight’.
The survey found that men are more likely than women to be overweight or obese (67.2% of men, 61.5% of women). People aged 65-74 are most likely to be overweight or obese (1)


Our body is adaptive and responds quickly to change so it’s never too late to support immunity through diet (or supplementation). Key nutrients, scientifically proven to support immune cell function include vitamin C, D and minerals zinc, selenium and magnesium. Research has shown how our immune cells have receptors for these nutrients and rely on them as cofactors for many metabolic processes. These nutrients have been shown in a multitude of epidemiological studies to upregulate immune cell activity and reduce longevity of colds, influenza and upper respiratory illnesses (2,3). This may be relevant to todays crisis but tomorrow? Supporting “underlying health conditions” is not just about today but about everyday.

What is even more unfortunate however, is that as soon as this science is applied to “food” it appears to be considered less scientific. Why is this? Somehow the banality of food, and what we eat, leads some people to believe that it’s not as relevant as perhaps taking a medicine or pill when it comes to healthcare. Not so. Our diet defines our health in more ways than are currently recognised by the traditional healthcare models. The nutrients in foods are abundant and bioavailable to our bodies, often more so than synthetic substitutes. These nutrients not only provide energy but provide cofactors for all metabolic processes and ultimately optimise our biological processes. The quality of the foods available to us is critical to health, and protecting our food chain should be a highest priority, especially in light of the possible links and likely causes of this current pandemic.

So my question is this….medicine is currently used for sickcare, whilst food is an integral part of healthcare, so can the two co-exist to provide a new healthcare paradigm in which prevention is given greater priority and more complemetary healthcare experts are included?


Claire Sambolino, MSc

Registered Nutritionist mBANT

Nutritional Therapy Practitioner CNHC

Dietary Educator FHT

Certified Metabolic Balance Consultant

NLP Practitioner




(2) Vitamin C and Immune Function, 2017 (

(3) Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. 2020 (

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