Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Vitamins and Nutrients


Vitamins fall into two general categories: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are found mainly in watery or starchy foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables, while fat-soluble vitamins are found mainly in fatty foods such as butter, nuts, olives, seafood, and organ meats. Only water-soluble vitamins function as coenzymes, while cofactors can also be minerals and other micronutrients. Vitamin deficiencies or coenzyme deficiency can lead to serious health disorders because important biological processes break down when a lack of coenzymes prevents enzymes from catalyzing essential chemical reactions. Two well-known coenzyme vitamins are thiamin and niacin. Thiamin compounds serve as coenzymes for a variety of reactions involving cellular energy production, protein synthesis, and brain function. Thiamin deficiency causes a disorder known as beriberi, with symptoms such as irritability, weakness, and even heart failure. Niacin is needed for numerous reactions related to energy production and fatty-acid synthesis. Deficiency causes pellagra, which leads to dementia, skin problems, weight loss, and eventually death. Inadequate or insufficient dietary intakes of vitamins and minerals are widespread, most  likely due to excessive consumption of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor, refined food. Suboptimal intake of micronutrients often accompanies caloric excess (hidden hunger). Hidden hunger (or occult hunger) is a form of undernutrition in which a chronic lack of vitamins and minerals has no visible warning signs. The Standard American Diet lacks essential nutrients. This state of nutritional insufficiency is a possible reason why millions walk around with headaches, body aches, digestive upset, skin problems, sinus problems, frequent colds, and other signs and  symptoms that may quickly disappear when you start taking necessary vitamins and minerals. Nutrition is enhanced through supplementation. Hidden hunger can lead to mental impairment, poor health and productivity, or even death.


The triage theory of optimal nutrition states that the human body prioritizes the use of vitamins and minerals when it is getting an insufficient amount of them to be able to keep functioning. Triage means deciding which patient to treat when faced with limited resources. When nutritional resources are limited, physiology (biological intelligence) must decide which biological functions to prioritize to give the total organism and the species the best chance to survive and reproduce. While short-term deficiencies or insufficiencies are common, they are often not taken seriously by mainstream medicine. Under such a limited scenario, the body will always direct nutrients toward short-term health and survival capability and away from regulation and repair of cellular DNA and proteins, which ultimately optimize health and increase longevity. We need to eat a wide variety of food to obtain the nutrients we need. A big problem we face is that the nutritional values of foods that people eat may be inferior to the listed values given in food  tables. Foods today have less nutrient content than foods 50 years ago. A study that assessed this issue showed declines in protein (−6%), calcium (−16%), phosphorus (−9%), iron (−15%), riboflavin (−38%), and vitamin C (−20%). There is a dilution effect, in which yield-enhancing methods such as fertilization and irrigation may decrease nutrient concentrations. A report from the US and UK Government statistics shows a decline in trace minerals of up to 76% in fruit and vegetables over the period from 1940 to 1991. Imagine what it is now. Nutrient imbalances impose a metabolic burden on all organ systems, with the greatest burden on those systems responsible for achieving and maintaining metabolic  equilibrium. Long-term disruption of metabolic equilibrium will most often adversely impact the cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, and/or musculoskeletal systems. In the absence of an adequate supply of nutrients to satisfy normal physiological requirements or adjust to increased metabolic demand, compensatory mechanisms involving one or more of these systems must be initiated to re-establish homeostasis. As with metabolic adjustments to address short-term nutrient deficiencies, these compensatory responses are important for correction of temporary imbalances, but if sustained over the long term, they may become maladaptive and contribute to the degenerative changes responsible for development or worsening of chronic diseases.

Integrative and Functional Medical Nutrition Therapy by: Diane Noland, Jeanne A. Drisko, Leigh Wagner