“Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution.” - Theodosius Dobzhanski
Growing up, we were always reminded to eat fruits and vegetables to grow a strong resistance to communicable diseases. Milk had a special place in our diets for strong bones, and stir-fried glass noodles or pancit ensure a long life.
Kidding aside, food gives us nutrients that nourish, build, and strengthen our bodies. However, scientific research has consistently concluded that food intake alone is not enough. This pushed for the development of nutritional supplements.
Here are some scientifically-based reasons why we need micronutrient supplementation.
1. Modern agriculture drains nutrients from our soils
We are made up of what makes up the earth. Everything that we eat essentially come from plants which are at the bottom of the food chain. Plants provide us energy-giving nutrients that fuel our bodies, and micronutrients that regulate it.
Therefore, our physical health ultimately depends on how nourished our soil is. However, unsustainable agricultural practices and natural soil erosion results in inevitable nutrient loss, and instead of replenishing it, commercial agriculture chooses to replicate natural cycles with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
Our soil now has less minerals and this is reflected in our food. Minerals work with vitamins, therefore their deficit can cause nutrient imbalances and metabolic dysfunction in our bodies.
2. Nutrient loss during food transportation and handling
Freshly picked fruits and vegetables undoubtedly have the most nutrients, so a fresh picked apple would have more nutrient content than when it arrives at a supermarket or your home.
When produce is picked from the tree, it loses moisture and nutrients, and is prone to spoilage. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B complex, are lost when cut or bruised tissues of produce are exposed to water. On the other hand, fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A and E are sensitive to heat, light, oxygen, and changes in pH.
The longer it takes for produce to get to your home - in the case of freight - the more chance that they are losing nutrients along the way.
3. Nutrient loss due to cooking methods
Produce is either cooked at your home or cooked via thermal processing when it undergoes canning or bottling. The cooking process generally reduces the amount of fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins, and minerals in food. Ingredients used in cooking such as salts, acids such as vinegar, and alkalis such as soda water or lye, also react with nutrients in food.
This is why so many people are encourage to eat raw produce. However, not all produce can be eaten raw and cooking really improves texture, palatability and flavor especially for fibrous types of produce.
Eating raw food also increases your risk for foodborne illness so it is highly recommended that pregnant women, children, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals refrain from eating uncooked and other high risk food.
4. Genetic modification of food
It is only during the last 100 years that the use of synthetic chemicals and their destructive consequences has been introduced into our food supply. Modern agriculture took it a step further by changing crops at the genetic level. The intent was to make food more available by minimizing the cost of production by making pest-resistant crops, and maximizing crop turnout.
However, genetically modified (GM) crops have been found to cause adverse microscopic and molecular effects in different tissues and organs such as the liver, pancreas, kidneys and gonads. Intake of GM food may alter our blood chemistry, trigger protein hypersensitivity, and impact our immune systems.
Although, organic food products are still around, supplementation helps us get the nutrients we need to strengthen our systems against the adverse effects of GM food.
5. Unhealthy eating
Less than 1/3 of us eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day. What we eat the most of are energy-dense food with low nutrient content. This means they are high in calories - excess calories make you fat! - but low in essential vitamins and minerals.
Why wouldn’t we? They are packaged conveniently for our fast-paced lives. They are also enhanced with ingredients that stimulate a surge in the pleasure hormone dopamine in our brains, making us addicted to it.
Keeping your body nourished with the proper amount of micronutrients makes it feel nutritionally quenched and keeps it from giving you the feedback that you are hungry. It then becomes easier to control cravings and manage our weight better.
6. Nutrient-nutrient interactions
Nutrient bioavailability is defined as the proportion of nutrients that enters the circulation and provides an active effect. For example, if a certain food serving has 100 mg of a nutrient it’s possible that after digestion and absorption, only about 35 mg find its way into the circulation.
A nutrient - or non-nutrient - can interact with another and decrease its availability. For example, phytate found in plants but mostly in seeds and grains interfere with the absorption of minerals such as zinc, iron, and manganese. When 5-10 mg of phytate is in a meal, iron absorption is reduced to 50% and this is not good for those who have low iron in the body.
Nutrients, especially minerals can also have competing interactions with each other. Iron and zinc, and calcium and magnesium, fight for the same protein carriers in the body. This means that a very high proportion of iron compared to zinc can inhibit zinc absorption.
Excellent micronutrient supplementation gives the body a balanced amount of nutrients at a time and may even have the technology to enhance bioavailability. This reduces the risk of functional and biochemical changes that may occur when our bodies compromise due to nutrient deficiencies.
7. Drug-nutrient interactions
Drugs can decrease a person’s appetite, interfere with the absorption or increase the excretion of some nutrients. For instance, anti-seizure drugs interfere with vitamin D and calcium absorption. In the long-run this may weaken bones due to low mineral density.
Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs cause vitamin C losses in the body. Diuretics or water-eliminating pills can decrease potassium levels in the body.
Although drugs may interfere with nutrients, nutrients may also interfere with drugs. Therefore, you might want to check with your physician if you need to cease some supplementation when you start taking a new drug.
8. Increased nutrient needs due to physiological conditions
Illnesses can cause a decrease in nutrient bioavailability as this affects the digestion, absorption, and transport of nutrients. It can be caused by prolonged antibiotic use, congenital or progressive defects in the digestive organs, intestinal damage, radiation therapy, or parasitic diseases.
In addition to disease, life stages such as pregnancy and lactation, infancy, and puberty also require higher nutrient needs. An increased food intake may not always be feasible and do not ensure that you are taking in enough micronutrients. Supplements added to proper food intake help a lot with managing these conditions.
9. Environmental factors that increase nutrient needs
No matter how conscientious we try to be with our lifestyle, we are constantly exposed to toxins from food, water, air and radiation. Decades ago, higher mortality rates were caused by communicable diseases. However, things have changed as chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are causing more deaths.
The premature degeneration of cells and DNA are caused by free radicals which are not only found in the environment but are also produced by our bodies. Vitamins and minerals act as antioxidants and function to protect our cells from this premature aging and DNA mutation.
Potent micronutrient supplements contain antioxidants taken from active phytochemicals of known superfoods such as grapeseed, broccoli, turmeric, and olives. These also support the body in maintaining its normal function.
10. The need for optimized body function
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) were put in place so that when everyone follows it, 97% of the population are at no risk for any nutrient deficiency, but what if you are part of the 3% that needs more than the RDA? And would you compute your food intake to see to it that you are reaching the RDA daily?
In reality, an attempt to get all the recommended micronutrients that you need from food alone would mean a daily excess in calorie intake. And we need to keep in mind that the RDAs are there to prevent deficiencies. This means you need to eat more than the RDA to optimize the function of your different organ systems.
Supplementation allows you to get all the micronutrients that you need without overloading your calorie intake. It allows your cells to perform at their best as they have unlimited resources for peak metabolic function and enhanced cellular maintenance.
Unless we supplement, most of us don’t even come close to meeting our daily nutritional requirements for vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Even if a person accidentally does eat a vegetable, it doesn’t have nearly the nutrition that nature intended. In addition, nutrient to nutrient and drug to nutrient interactions, as well as physiological conditions of the body, interfere with nutrient absorption.
Micronutrient supplementation ensures that our cells get unlimited resources for peak function without packing the extra calories. It also provides strong protection from free radicals that may cause premature aging and cell dysfunction.