The Importance Of Micronutrients
By Christopher Walker
Modern medical school education does not focus on the human body’s absolute need for vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to fuel every hormonal, metabolic, and enzymatic process required for basic living requirements.
Because of this, the vital importance of nutrients has completely escaped the public’s attention.
Meanwhile, our modern food supply, coupled with mass confusion around dieting habits, fad diets, and commercial farming practices has led to widespread population-level micronutrient deficiencies across the world.
… we’re not just overfed and undernourished, but a lot of foods we’re told are “healthy” are in fact loaded with anti-nutrients that strip our bodies of vital minerals we need!
Deficiencies cause most health problems, from sexual dysfunction, to metabolic disorders, thyroid, brain, and circulation disorders, and even hair loss.
So why do doctors and nutritionists discount, or worse… ignore… the vital importance of vitamins and minerals for our bodies to function properly?
And why are we constantly told that pharmaceuticals are the only way to solve health problems? Is there something more sinister at play? Is it really possible that something as simple as correcting your deficiencies can reverse major issues quickly? And who stands to profit from keeping us in the dark about this?
It’s time to “Think Again.”
Table Of Contents:
- Jeff's Story
- Why Does The General Public Not Know About This?
- What are micronutrients?
- What is a micronutrient deficiency?
"If it wasn’t for zinc, D3, and magnesium, I’d be dead or in prison right now - they saved my fucking life,”
Jeff, has a story not unlike many other people I’ve talked to over the years, albeit his may be a little more extreme than most.
At the heart of his journey lies drug use, all pharmaceutical and other legal drugs, misinformed doctors, and one fatal blood test that completely changed everything. In fact, it’s not unlike my own story. The pattern is common in this day and age. You might see some of your own story in this too.
“As a child, I was plagued with unexplained skin rashes, sore muscles, and bad mood swings. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s before I found out why, since childhood I had experienced these issues.
When I was a teenager, like most kids my age, I discovered alcohol. Drinking became a past time, something I used for recreation and competition with my buddies. It quickly turned into a form of self-medication to escape the pains of daily life. When I started working in a hydraulics plant, I got a prescription from the family doctor for adderall, using amphetamines as a strong upper to balance out the depressant effects of my nightly drinking, helping me get up in the morning and stay alert on a demanding job.
This brought on its own series of problems,”
His mood swings got worse. He started street fighting. Then, within a 6 month time period, Jeff’s father and his girlfriend both committed suicide. To cope with the trauma, he saw a doctor who prescribed him an antidepressant and the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, to help him fall asleep.
“So I was just pumping my body with so much trash just to get out of bed and function and then I needed to bring myself down at the end of the day,” he tells me.
Soon, I started experiencing issues with erectile dysfunction. My libido completely disappeared.
This is when the warning bells started to ring.“
Jeff stopped taking the antidepressant and Seroquel, and started looking for a different kind of doctor, someone he could trust to give him some real facts about how to turn his health around.
He found a doctor who came highly recommended in an affluent area, and after a 90 minute appointment explaining his history she ordered him a blood panel to measure his micronutrient levels. She recognized some patterns in his behavior that have been observed as signs of key deficiencies, especially with respect to mental health, by researchers in the field of nutrient studies, like the alcohol abuse, rashes, and mood swings.
The blood test results showed massively high levels of copper in Jeff’s blood, along with some glaring deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, Vitamin D, and the B vitamins.
She immediately put Jeff on a high daily dose of zinc picolinate, D3, B vitamins, and magnesium powder. After about 3 months of “feeling pretty average with the supplements” Jeff experienced a massive breakthrough that this doctor had told him would be coming… He finally passed the copper out of his body.
“I remember it was Christmas at my mums,” he explained. “I had curled up in one of the downstairs bedrooms; I had a terrible stomach ache and had to sit on the toilet for a while. What came out was bright orange turds. The doctor told me this was the copper passing out of my body.”
After that day, Jeff started to feel better and better every day. He stayed on his daily supplement regimen and within months he ditched all drugs he was using and massively cut down on his alcohol intake.
“I feel 100x better now than when I was growing up. Fixing my deficiencies helped clear away childhood health issues too, my once crippling depression is now completely gone.”
He used to stay home alone to avoid people, but now he works as a successful project manager in a construction company and spends most of his day (willingly) socializing and coordinating large scale projects with his peers. He’s also taken his experience and is now helping his family members. Recently he helped his brother get off his antidepressants and pursue a natural nutrient based therapy for depression.
“I hate to think about how many people out there can be happy and anxiety-free and feel great in their life but are stuck on these pharmaceuticals the doctors are pumping them full of which is doing nothing but putting a wet blanket over their symptoms.”
Why Does The General Public Not Know This?:
So why doesn’t the general public know about the importance of nutrients, and the devastating effect of nutrient deficiencies on their health?
One of the main reasons is the lack of nutrition education in medical schools. A lagging medical school curriculum with almost zero focus on nutrition remains the societal chokepoint for mass awareness around nutrients, mainly due to the fact that a majority of the population still looks to medical doctors for solutions to their health problems. This appeal to authority will no longer serve us in the development of our understanding of human health, and the evidence only gets clearer and clearer that it, to this point, has done nothing but send us in the wrong direction.
This sentiment has begun to shift slightly over the past decade due to the faster spread of information over the internet, and ability to gain access to legitimate scientific literature databases. However, not every person who reads, or spreads, information is necessarily qualified to accurately disseminate its meaning, and therefore the spread of misinformation has also simultaneously become easier, leaving people more confused than ever about the right way to eat for health, and leaving them vulnerable to predatory marketing and propaganda.
Governing medical bodies have analyzed and surveyed medical school curriculums for decades. All surveys have come to similar conclusions about the inadequacy of nutrition education, such as “the amount of nutrition education in medical schools remains inadequate,” and “the amount of nutrition education US medical students receive continues to be inadequate,” with that specific 2010 study citing the fact that only 26 medical schools in the US (out of the 127 accredited US medical schools) required a dedicated nutrition course during the entire curriculum.
The fact that so few medical schools actually require nutrition training is also concerning when coupled with the finding that a declining number of medical students are actually interested in learning anything about nutrition at all. A review in 2011 referenced the cause of this decline in interest as potentially being related to the fact that, since the 1950s, medical students have all carried a similar sentiment that nutrition education in medical school is inadequate, similar to the studies cited previously. Another more recent study in 2017 in the journal Family Medicine found the exact same thing: doctors across the board think that nutrition education is poorly integrated into the medical school curriculum. “They witnessed little nutrition counseling during shadowing experiences, and the nutrition information imparted was often outdated or incorrect.” And medical students entering residency programs “appear to be deficient in basic nutritional knowledge.”
When you combine a lack of trust in the quality of the education itself, paired with no improvement in curriculum (or even a requirement to learn nutrition basics in most US medical schools), it seems perfectly reasonable to understand why fewer and fewer doctors are even interested in learning anything about nutrition during their expensive schooling. After all, why would you want to spend thousands of dollars taking course material that your peers since the 1950s, and even governing medical organizations, all deem “inadequate.”
The dissatisfaction with medical school nutrition education is not reserved for institutions in the United States, however, with another study in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism demonstrating an average score of 4.7 for Canadian medical students’ sentiments about the quality of their nutrition education on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being immense dissatisfaction and 10 being satisfaction). Of the students surveyed, 87.3% of them believed that their curriculum should dedicate more time to nutrition education, referencing the fact that most of the medical students were “uncomfortable discussing the role of nutrition in the treatment of disease and nutrient requirements across the lifecycle.”
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the United States, 2,3,4,5
- More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese, which is classified as at or above the 85th percentile on the CDC growth charts.
- More than 1 in 3 adults are obese, which is at or above the 95th percentile on the CDC growth charts.
- About 1 in 13 adults were considered extremely obese, which is at or above 120% of the 95th percentile on the CDC growth charts.
- About 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 are obese.
There is little doubt that overweight and obesity remains an escalating epidemic, at least in the US, however medical doctors, according to a recent 2017 study in the medical Journal of Health Promotion Practice, still remain under pressure from “widespread expectations that primary care physicians counsel their overweight and obese patients” in nutrition despite the fact that very few medical school programs have given them what could be deemed as “adequate” training on the subject.
This, specifically, is a problem mostly because it is set up to fail both parties involved, the patient and the practitioner.
Obese and overweight patients go to see their doctors for specific weight-related health issues they’re looking to solve, such as metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sexual dysfunction, however with the doctors’ lack of confidence in their nutritional schooling, very few of them ever give the patients any sort of lifestyle or nutrition-related advice for reversing their health issues naturally, instead opting to prescribe them pharmaceuticals for their ailments, a subject around which they have had much more training in the medical curriculum.
The pharmaceuticals tend to cause more issues than they solve, and neither the patient nor the practitioner ever actually get to the bottom of the true issue at hand, relegating the patient to a life of prescription drugs when that fate was mostly likely entirely unnecessary.
And even though as far back as 1995, with the release of the pivotal study by Dr. Robert Kushner, MD where he recommended that nutrition and dietary counseling be carried out by all clinical physicians “in the delivery of preventative services by primary care physicians,” very little has changed in the medical practice and the common clinic when it comes to actually giving patients nutritional advice. In fact, while primary care physicians still believe that it is within their realm of responsibility to provide nutritional counseling, many physicians still do not believe that their patients, specifically, would actually benefit from nutritional counseling, a belief that is likely due to the lack of schooling around the subject of nutrition in the first place.
Accordingly, physicians frequently lack substantive nutrition knowledge and counseling skills necessary to successfully guide their patients. A recent study found that only 14% of resident physicians believed they were adequately trained to provide nutritional counseling.
So again, the crossroads we’ve come to at this point in time, is the fundamental mixture of a lack of nutritional education for our presiding physicians in a society who looks to physicians for guidance on their health. The physicians themselves have no confidence in the quality of nutritional education, if it is provided at all, in their medical school curriculum, and that coupled with the high expense of learning course material in medical school would seem like a reasonable decision to avoid the nutritional courses in the first place.
And while, according to CDC data, our population's health is spiraling out of control, the doctors we have been told to trust to fix our health are no more equipped to teach us how to eat than any other individual with a passing interest in nutrition.
So how do we get ourselves out of this mess?
First, we must decide to take control of our own health. Nobody cares about your health as much as you do. Stop abdicating your fate to someone else. The necessary first step to taking responsibility over your own body is to understand the basics of how the body works. You must understand micronutrients: the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and gases that play vitally important roles in every process within the human body.
An understanding of your body’s ‘building blocks’ reveals to you the fundamental truth, the key that will open the door to your perfect state of health. It’s time we take a step back and look at the true Nature of the human body. We’ve lost the forest for the trees; the time has come to open up a different way of thinking about your health, because like Sir Francis Bacon so eloquently stated in the Novum Organum, the basis for the scientific method as we know it today,
“A quite different way must be opened up for the human intellect than men have known in the past, and new aids devised, so that the mind may exercise its right over nature.”
What Are Micronutrients?:
A micronutrient is, “a chemical element or substance required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms.”
More specifically, the term ‘micronutrient’ encompasses vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and even gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide that are required by the body of a living organism in order to properly carry out hormonal, metabolic, cellular, and neuronal functioning.
Micronutrients are not needed in as high raw amounts as macronutrients, by definition, so we tend to find the daily need for them between the microgram range up to just a few grams, depending on the micronutrient.
Despite this low raw material requirement, most people are massively deficient in key micronutrients their body needs.
When the body is deficient in any important micronutrient, it has to compensate for the lack of the necessary material within the specific system that needs it by trying to find it elsewhere within the body. For example, low calcium levels, also known as hypocalcemia, which can be caused by a range of different things such as low thyroid function, low dietary calcium intake, kidney disorders, and as a side effect of many pharmaceuticals, will compromise the basic functioning of many important processes, especially neuronal communication, since calcium is one of our main electrolytes, or electrically-charged minerals needed in cellular communication.
Over time, a chronic calcium deficiency can lead to disorders such as osteoporosis, in this case because calcium is stored in the bones, and when the body needs it for basic neuronal functioning it will leech it from storage areas, like the bones, in order to attempt to maintain normal function.
Over time, this natural compensation mechanism can be deleterious to your health, developing into full-blown osteoporosis. This is precisely why it is not uncommon for people who develop bone disorders like osteoporosis to previously exhibit neurological dysfunction symptoms such as depression, brain fog, soreness, and tingling in their extremities sometimes years before their osteoporosis diagnosis.
The body is trying to maintain normal functioning within the important systems like your nervous system and circulatory system, which have a higher priority to your survival than your bone health, however you can only escape the symptoms of this compensatory response for so long before it comes time to pay the piper.
A general awareness about amino acids seems to be reserved mostly to fitness enthusiasts, however, amino acids are massively important for other body operations outside of just gaining muscle.
All proteins in the body are made up of different chains of amino acids. Proteins run along a spectrum in their complexity with direct relation to the number, order, and variety of amino acids that make up their structural chain.
The simplest way to picture an amino acid, and a structure that is common to all of them, is that amino acids are made up of a weak acid molecule group - containing carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen - attached to a strong acid group, containing nitrogen.
STRUCTURE OF AN AMINO ACID
C = Carbon CARBON (Hydrogen) ACID (Vinegar)
O = Oxygen CHAIN CARBOXYL GROUP
N = Nitrogen
H = Hydrogen
CH3 -- CH -- COOH
AMINO GROUP (Ammonia)
We typically group amino acids into two distinct types: essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body and must be supplied by the diet. They are:
Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by the body by combining two or more of the EAAs. This combination would necessarily require adequate levels of the EAAs needed for the synthesis, however. NEAAs can become essential for the body during disease or disorder and stress because there is an increased need and/or breakdown of them. All stress states require more amino acids. They are:
- Arginine (essential for babies)
- Aspartic Acid
- Carnitine (essential for babies)
- Glutamic Acid
Learn More: How To Rebalance Amino Acids
Vitamins are substances that the body needs for use as raw materials to fuel important metabolic processes, oftentimes by acting as cofactors. For example, in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the body requires the essential amino acid tryptophan, and the final reaction step requires adequate availability of vitamin B6 as a cofactor in the process. Without one of these nutrients, the process cannot happen correctly. Another example is the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which is produced in a process involving dopamine with copper as a cofactor.
Vitamins are usually classified by their solubility, either water-soluble or fat-soluble. The water soluble vitamins are the B vitamins and vitamin C. Excess water soluble vitamins can be easily passed out of the body via urine. The fat soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K. These must be more closely monitored as certain fat soluble vitamins can build up in tissue, such as vitamin A, leading to hypervitaminosis.
Table of vitamins:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B7
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
While minerals, in general, are any solid inorganic natural substance, when people refer to the word “mineral” in the context of health, they usually mean two things: trace minerals and electrolytes. Both of which are absolutely essential in proper levels to the healthy functioning of your body.
Trace minerals are critical minerals needed as building blocks for hundreds of different enzymes, and are necessary for hormone functioning, circulatory health, can serve as antioxidants, and are a requirement for healthy neurological functioning. They include:
Electrolytes are minerals that when dissolved in the body’s fluids create electrically charged ions. Crack open any neuroscience or biochemistry textbook and you’ll quickly realize how essential electrolytes are to literally every form of cellular communication in the body. Deficiency in any of the following nutrients can have a devastating effect on the way your cells operate and communicate with one another:
What Is A Micronutrient Deficiency? And What Causes Them?
A micronutrient deficiency is quite literally a “lack” of one of the aforementioned nutrients that your body requires to fulfill its fundamental processes, like proper growth and metabolism.
You might think, “I eat healthy; I am not deficient in anything.”
Statistically, half of the population of the entire world… yes the whole world… is deficient in multiple nutrients by the time they are 6 months old. Between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old, this half of the world’s children are deficient in iron, iodine, Vitamin A, folate, and zinc. These deficiencies cause, what the CDC refers to as, “devastating consequences.”
Iron, for example, is essential in balanced levels in the body for cognitive and motor development from birth. One of the reasons that many children are iron deficient (along with other deficiencies) at or near birth is due to the deficiency of the mother.
Anemia, low hemoglobin (a molecule in the blood responsible for transporting oxygen with a molecular structure containing four subunits each containing an iron atom bound to a heme group) in the blood, has been found to affect 38% of pregnant women globally.
The iron deficiency is passed to the child at birth, and these prenatal deficiencies can also cause genetic and epigenetic expressions that become evident with age. (reference Nutrient Power epigenetics)
Iodine, another extremely common prenatal deficiency, is a crucially important trace mineral needed for proper growth and development of the fetus, especially with relation to hormonal balance and brain development.
Maternal iodine deficiency is “recognized as the greatest cause of preventable mental impairment in the world,” with 38 million newborn babies every year consequently at risk from iodine deficiency, and 18 million babies born yearly with iodine deficiency-caused mental impairment.
It is estimated that worldwide, over 2 billion people do not consume adequate iodine to properly fuel their body’s daily requirements.
Vitamin A, a crucial fat-soluble vitamin necessary in the development of your eyes and immune system, is another woefully common deficiency in children and pregnant women, with 1 in 6 pregnant women carrying the deficiency, and subsequently 1 in 3 school-age children with it as well. Vitamin A supplementation has, understandably, been found to improve important health biomarkers in deficient children ages 6 - 59 months old as the deficiencies are overcome.
From birth, most of us are already at a disadvantage.
And it only gets worse from there, with not only the magnitude of these prenatal deficiencies increasing with age, but also the breadth of different deficiencies increasing as well. Meanwhile, as a population we continue to feed our kids nutrient-void foods, and foods rich in anti-nutrients thinking they are healthy, when in fact, they are leeching more and more of these precious micronutrients from our youth.
Malnutrition and micronutrients are major contributors to the global burden of disease, especially in children and mothers. This undernutrition has been determined a major cause of death and disability in young children. “When ranked among other causes, growth faltering and micronutrient deficiencies figure prominently. solid evidence shows that nutrition programs can be effective at addressing nutritional problems in young children.”
According to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition, “there is a need for additional measures to increase the intake of certain micronutrients” in children, referencing specifically iron, Vitamin A, and iodine along with zinc, folate and the other B vitamins, as well as the trace mineral selenium.
Micronutrients of all varieties, but especially the prevalent childhood deficiencies such as iodine and selenium, play a central role in the maintenance of metabolism and proper tissue function, so it should come as no surprise that the incidences of metabolic syndrome and epidemic level health issues such as hypothyroidism continue to rapidly rise every decade, with an estimated 20 million Americans having some kind of thyroid disease and over 60% of those individuals not even knowing about their condition. Women, specifically, are up to 8 times more likely to develop a thyroid condition than men, and 1 in 8 women globally are predicted to develop some kind of thyroid condition in their lifetime.
These statistics are alarming!
But we can fix this if we’re armed with the right knowledge. But don’t go rushing to some popular fad diet either… as they’ve been found to be one of the leading culprits of micronutrient deficiencies in adult populations.
On one hand, as we’ve discussed, many of us are at a big disadvantage when it comes to nutrient deficiencies either at birth, or by the time we are 6 months old. This is a mixture of a genetic and epigenetic predisposition that we truly can do nothing to control ourselves… it’s the “hand we’re dealt” so to speak.
We can definitely improve these prenatal deficiencies by influencing people in our own life, namely the education of mothers and soon-to-be mothers, in our friends and family circles.
In terms of making an immediate positive impact, educating your friends and family about nutrient deficiencies is critical. The network effect will take care of the rest; the more people who are aware of this issue, the more lives we can impact for the better.
But these early-life deficiencies are not the only cause of micronutrient deficiencies in humans. There are many things that we introduce into our daily habits, specifically foods that we eat, that contain compounds that increase the chances of a nutrient deficiency.
In the case of food, the most powerful “blocker” causing nutrient deficiencies that you’re consuming on a daily basis is something known as an anti-nutrient.
In its strictest sense, anti-nutrients are compounds found in plants specifically, that either impair your ability to absorb nutrients from that plant, or actually bind to, and pass out crucial nutrients from your own body.
Both of these things can be easily avoided by simply not consuming the foods containing powerful anti-nutrients.
While many people use the term ‘anti-nutrient’ loosely to encompass a group of different compounds, there is definitely a spectrum of the magnitude of the effect that these anti-nutrients can have on the human body.
One anti-nutrient in particular, has been ranked by researchers as being the #1 most detrimental anti-nutrient to consume for human health, and has been specifically referred to as “possibly the single biggest cause for mineral deficiencies in humans around the world.”
This anti-nutrient is known as phytic acid.
Because of the way phytic acid is chemically-structured, it has a high concentration of negatively charged phosphate groups, which means that when you consume it from certain foods, these negatively charged phosphate groups can easily bind to certain mineral ions which makes them completely unavailable for absorption into your intestines.
The most important step in proper mineral absorption is for the mineral itself to remain in ionic form. When it is bound by an anti-nutrient like phytic acid, it is no longer ionic and therefore can no longer be absorbed by your body.
Phytic acid is well-cited in the scientific literature as a cause for deficiencies with zinc, calcium, and iron,
and often also for magnesium and copper, however those claims tend to be more controversial.
Phytic acid consumption has also been shown to increase the excretion of not just minerals, but also key amino acids, sulphur, nitrogen, and sialic acid. It’s also been proven to bind to certain important proteins in the body at specific pH levels.
Because phytic acid is found mostly in plants, and in very high levels in foods like legumes, nuts, seeds and in the bran of grains, researchers have also determined that vegans and vegetarians are at a particularly high risk for nutrient deficiencies, since they tend to rely so heavily on these food sources in their daily dietary intake.
Phytic acid isn’t only a culprit in mineral and amino acid excretion, unfortunately. It has also been found to be a potent inhibitor of important bodily enzymes such as trypsin, a proteolytic enzyme that plays an important role in your digestive system.
Phytic acid has also been shown to negatively impact your amylase alpha digestive enzyme, as well as pepsin - the chief digestive enzyme of the stomach.
On top of that, it’s been shown to hurt your stomach’s ability to digest simple starches.
All-in-all, eating foods high in phytic acid is not recommended for anyone who wants to maintain micronutrient balance and have a healthy digestive system.
(Let’s use this table showing the phytic acid content of common foods people eat. )
I realize it’s controversial to prescribe that you shouldn’t eat nuts, beans, whole grains, and seeds however - according to the scientific research - these foods are leaching important minerals from your body. And not only that, but despite the fact that every cookie-cutter health expert on the internet tells you they’re nutritious - they’re actually not. Your body literally cannot access most of the vitamins and minerals inside these foods due to the high anti-nutrient content.
With seeds, for example, researchers have found despite the seed itself containing a lot of different nutrients, the human body can only access magnesium from the seed. All the other nutrients are wasted on us… we cannot digest them. And the phytic acid in the seed can potentially leach minerals from you, so it could be a net negative effect overall. Eating seeds is worse than just wasting your money… they’re anti-nutritious.
This isn’t even taking the other negative aspects of seeds and nuts into account, such as the extremely high PUFA content.
I’m of the belief that health needs to be more accurately defined. People are confused, precisely because the prevailing conventional wisdom that’s being spread through the echo chamber of the mainstream media and medical establishment is not at all rooted in a foundational look at human biology.
Currently the medical establishment defines “health” as “the absence of illness or disease.” This is ludicrous, and completely unhelpful. And nutritionists are still basing their recommendations off of the government food pyramids, and their government-compliant textbook education… which has all been funded by special interest groups and corporations that have no interest whatsoever in helping us become truly healthy.
True health in the human body is when you’re not deficient in any micronutrients, and therefore when you’re hormonally balanced. And with that in mind, you shouldn’t consume or expose yourself to anything that can reliably cause deficiencies in your body, and damage your thyroid and reproductive health.
It’s time that we, as a population in the middle of worldwide health epidemics, take our power back. It’s time that we Think Again.