Vitamin Supplements: Friend And Guardian? Really?
Dr. James Gruft explores the relationship between nutrient deficiency and disease
Our typical understanding (and I mean most people, including doctors) is that the only reason we need to take nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) is to prevent deficiency diseases like scurvy, rickets, beriberi, etc. It is also common for me to hear that a particular patient of mine was told by his or her primary care physician that whoever takes supplements is wasting their money; all he or she needs to do is eat a balanced meal, according to the food groups listed in the food pyramid. Unfortunately, this thinking is wrong on many levels.
Let’s take a look at the first supposition:
“the only reason we need to take nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) is to prevent deficiency diseases like scurvy, rickets, beriberi, etc.”
Taking enough nutrients to prevent a deficiency disease (defined as the RDA or recommended daily allowance) is no guarantee that we are taking the optimal amount of nutrients for optimal health. As Dr. Bruce Ames, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, and a Senior Scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), explains, there are about 50 different diseases that may result from genetic variants that interfere with biochemical reactions in the body The disease then manifests partially as a result of a decreased binding capacity of enzymes to nutrients, which in many instances, act as cofactors (enabling the enzyme to work). According to Dr. Ames these problems “can be remedied by feeding high dose B vitamins, which raise levels of the corresponding coenzyme; many polymorphisms also result in a lowered affinity of enzyme for coenzyme and thus may be in part remediable.”
Let’s take a look at the second supposition:
“Whoever takes supplements is wasting their money; all he or she needs to do is eat a balanced meal”
Unfortunately, our food today is less nutritious than before WWII! From 1940-1991 vegetables lost 76% of their copper, 46% of their calcium, 27% of their iron and 24% of their magnesium. Fruits have lost 19% of their copper, 16% of their calcium, 24% of their iron, and 15% of their magnesium. Why? The soil in our food has been depleted of nutritional treatment, so that depletion is passed onto our produce. There is a movement apace to correct this deficiency, called the Real Food Campaign at www.realfoodcampaign.org.
Jame Gruft, M.D.