Years ago, medical professionals noticed that peculiar disease states were directly related to food intake. These diseases were found in the presence of adequate calorie and protein intake.

Scientists also noticed that these diseases were absent among people who consumed certain foods. For example, sailors who consumed citrus fruits on long sea voyages did not develop scurvy.

Thus, researchers reasoned, there must be other important substances in the foods. Eventually, they discovered that compounds only obtained from foods could prevent and cure these diseases.

Nutrient deficiencies in the general population

Nutrient deficiencies are common, usually from a poor diet overall, or from a reduced calorie intake. 68% of the North American population is deficient in calcium, 90% in chromium, 75% in magnesium, and 80% in vitamin B6.

Nutrient deficiencies are particularly common among populations such as the elderly, athletes (who have a higher requirement for many nutrients), and people with low incomes (who may not consume as many healthy foods).

When someone reduces food intake in an effort to drop body fat, they’re almost assured a nutrient deficiency. Why? Because as food intake goes down, nutrient intake does too.

Vitamin solubility and absorption

Fat soluble vitamins are mostly absorbed passively and must be transported with dietary fat. These vitamins are usually found in the portion of the cell which contains fat, including membranes, lipid droplets, etc.

We tend to excrete fat soluble vitamins via feces, but we can also store them in fatty tissues.

If we don’t eat enough dietary fat, we don’t properly absorb these vitamins. A very low-fat diet can lead to deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins.

Water soluble vitamins are absorbed by both passive and active mechanisms. Their transport in the body relies on molecular “carriers”.

Water soluble vitamins are not stored in high amounts within the body and are excreted in the urine along with their breakdown products.

Mineral absorption

Our bodies and the foods we eat contain minerals; we actually absorb them in a charged state (i.e., ionic state). Minerals will be in either a positive or negative state and reside inside or outside or cells.

Molecules found in food can alter our ability to absorb minerals. This includes things like phytates (found in grains), oxalate (found in foods like spinach and rhubarb), both of which inhibit mineral absorption, and acids. Even gastric acidity and stress can influence absorption.

Summary and recommendations

Vitamins and minerals play a role in normalizing bodily functions and cannot be made by the body (except for vitamin D from the sun).

Adequate intake from food and/or supplements is necessary to prevent deficiency, promote optimal health, improve nutrient partitioning and promote fat loss and muscle gain.


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