PART 1 / 3
You don’t have to be starving to be nutrient deficient. Clinical experience and decades of research show that most of us don’t get enough of certain nutrients. This problem is making our lives less enjoyable, making us more likely to get chronic diseases, and shortening our lives.
Furthermore, your doctor won’t discuss it with you, and it’s unlikely that you’ve read much about it in the media. However, it is well documented in the scientific literature, and current data indicate that practically everyone is nutrient deficient—at least to some extent.
Additionally, nutrient deficiency is quite simple to cure. It doesn’t need a team of doctors, pricey lab tests, or risky medications, unlike some health conditions. The ones most common today are autoimmune diseases, stubborn weight gain, and serious neurological and mental health difficulties.
Once we address this fundamental condition, most people experience an upward spiral in which previously unrelated issues start to get better. They have more energy, sleep better, have sharper minds, have clearer skin, and have better digestion. Overall, their physical performance and recovery have improved.
You might essentially say that treating this condition slows down or even stops the aging process!
In this 3 part series, we’ll cover:
- Why vitamins, minerals, and other compounds called “micronutrients” are so important to our health.
- The reasons why most of us do not receive adequate amounts of not just one but several key micronutrients
- Why we can’t meet all of our nutrient needs with food alone and why it begins with a healthy diet.
- How “smart supplementation” can fill in the nutritional gaps of modern life, improve our health, keep us from getting sick, and lengthen our lives.
Let’s get into it!
How do micronutrients work? What does “nutrient density” mean?
Our food contains two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients.
- Macronutrients or ‘Macros’: three main nutrient types that our body requires in large (macro) amounts being protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
- Micronutrients: are vitamins, minerals, and other molecules that our body needs in smaller (micro) amount for normal biological function.
Both are necessary for our health.
The concentration of micronutrients and amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in a particular food is called “nutrient density.”
If you don’t eat enough, your body can only make a small number of lipids and carbohydrates for a short time. (The exception is essential omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which we can only get from food.) The body also cannot produce micronutrients or the important amino acids contained in protein, which must be obtained from the diet.
The importance of micronutrients to avoid being nutrient deficient
About 40 distinct micronutrients are needed by the human body for healthy metabolic function. Our diets should focus on maximizing nutritional density because deficits in any of these vital elements can hasten the onset of chronic disease and even limit lifespan. Just a few instances of how nutritional shortages cause chronic illness are given here:
A lack of:
- Magnesium is associated with cardiovascular disease, depression, and metabolic syndrome.
- Vitamin D promotes immune dysfunction as well as an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
- Vitamin C raises the risk of chronic disease risk factors such as blood pressure, waist circumference, and inflammation marker – C-reactive protein.
- Choline causes DNA damage and impairs brain development and liver function.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with depression, cognitive dysfunction, and Parkinsonian-like symptoms such as reversible tremors.
- Folate increases the risk of birth defects and promotes the production of homocysteine, which damages blood vessels and impairs DNA methylation leading to altered gene expression and an increased risk of cancer.
Being nutrient deficient in survival mode hastens aging and reduces lifespan.
Survival vs longevity
He says that all proteins and enzymes in the body should be put into two groups: proteins that help you stay alive and proteins that help you live longer. Survival proteins are the ones we need to stay alive right now and in the short term. Whereas longevity proteins are those that help you stay healthy and happy for a long time.
For example, vitamin K-dependent proteins could be put into two groups: those needed for short-term survival, (like those that help blood clot), and those important for long-term health, (like those that help regulate calcium metabolism and keep cells healthy).
According to the triage theory, even a small lack of one nutrient triggers a built-in rationing system that puts proteins needed for survival and reproduction ahead of proteins needed to keep damage from getting worse (called longevity proteins).
This is true because both survival proteins and longevity proteins often need the same vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to work well. If a certain nutrient is in short supply, the body will always give priority to nutrients that are needed right away.
Efficiency is a hallmark of evolution. In other words, the triage theory contends that even a single micronutrient intake below optimal levels has the potential to advance the aging process and reduce lifespan.
Being even slightly nutrient deficient can have damaging consequences
And so we see a significant shift in how researchers are now considering the importance of nutrients for human health. Micronutrients have traditionally been seen as essential for survival or to avoid serious illness. Now, we’re starting to understand the crucial but underappreciated role they play in aging, longevity, and optimal performance.
Dr. Ames’ “triage” theory explains why even small nutritional deficits that don’t cause obvious clinical symptoms have a significant effect on the aging process and diseases that are linked to aging. For this reason, optimizing nutritional status is challenging but crucial.
We should stress that Dr. Ames is not referring to severe nutrient deficits that cause pellagra, scurvy, beriberi, and rickets. These illnesses are currently relatively uncommon, at least in wealthy countries. He’s referring to nutrient intake that is below the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Note that the ideal amount we need is often much higher than what is set as the RDA.
In Part 2, we’ll look at how to get the actual RDA required for optimal health and longevity. Meanwhile, here are a few food swaps you can implement right away to boost the number of nutrients in your daily diet.
- Use olive or avocado oil instead of canola oil or other industrial seed oils.
- Refuel on nuts and seeds instead of protein bars.
- Swap processed sugar for A-grade maple syrup or coconut sugar.
- Try brown rice, quinoa, or buckwheat rather than white rice.
- Replace chips and fries with sweet potatoes baked in coconut oil or goose fat.
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