The Importance of Micronutrients in Autism: Part 1
Did you know that within Canada, there are an estimated 190,000 Autistic children? Recent epidemiological studies suggest that the rate of Autism has increased from 40 cases per 10,000 to 60 cases per 10,000! Autistm is considered to be a neurological disorder that results in developmental disability. The causes of Autism are not certain; according to a September 2010 report conducted by CBC News, current research is focused on genetics, differences in brain function, environmental factors, viral infections and immune responses and deficiencies.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Autism Spectrum Disorders:
While most conventional research does not emphasize nutritional deficiencies, Orthomolecular Medicine practitioners approach Autism from a different perspective. Here is the short of it all:
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin):
Vitamin B12 has been used since the 1960′s as a first-line therapy in the treatment of many neurological and psychiatric disorders. B12 is found in meat products and requires an optimal environment in order to be absorbed by the body. Optimal levels of B12 are necessary in both the blood and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and while often blood levels are within the normal range, CSF levels are very low. In children B12 levels are essential to the integrity of the myelin sheath which wraps around nerve cells and an early onset infantile deficiency is associated with insufficient myelination, impaired neurological development and on occasion, death. If B12 deficiency is not diagnosed it later becomes associated with a vast array of neurological symptoms, many of which overlap with the development, neurological and behavioural symptoms associated with the Autism Spectrum Disorders. One 2001 study found that early onset of B12 deficiency was characterized by feeding difficulties, failure to thrive, hypotonia, seizures, microcephaly and developmental delay. Another study found that psychomotor status may improve after years of treatment with B12 – likely due to an eventual myelination – and that hypotonia, lethargy and impaired responsiveness positively reacts to methyl cobalamin (a specific form of B12) within 24-48 hours.
The cause of B12 deficiency is multifactorial but one contributing factor can be related to a maternal B12 deficiency. One 2001 study looked at the status of B12 in mothers and found deficiencies to be related to psychomotor retardation, apathy, muscular hypotonia, abnormal movements and failure to thrive and microcephaly. It is recommended that every woman gets her B12 levels tested prior to pregnancy with B12 levels being >300ng/l.
The Folate Factor
Folic Acid was once considered to be a highly deficient nutrient among the Canadian population resulting in a high incidence of Neural Tube Defects. It is also a member of the water-soluble B Vitamin family and must be in equilibrium with B12. Folate over-fortification and supplementation has led to a disruption in the balance between folic acid and B12. Very high levels of folate can mask a B12 deficiency. Folic Acid intake, as with B12, should come from whole foods such as meat and eggs.
As mentioned, B12 requires an optimally acidic environment in order for absorption. If that environment doesn’t exist, no matter the amount of B12 ingested, none will be absorbed or utilized. Believe it or not (especially you heartburn sufferers) most people suffer from low stomach acid leading to impaired B12 absorption (and heartburn!). To worsen the matter, B12 deficiency results in the destruction of the gastric lining leading to further impaired digestion and absorption… See the cycle? low B12 = bad mucosa = impaired digestion and absorption = even lower B12!
Iron is required for the proper delivery of oxygen to the brain. In the pediatric brain, the neurological consequences of low iron status may only be partially reversible. This means that iron deficiency in early life is associated with delayed development which persists after iron therapy has corrected iron status. One 2008 study found that infants lacking iron in their first 6-12 months of life are likely to experience persistent effects. The optimal combination of laboratory measurements for detecting iron deficiency anemia is: hemoglobin, serum ferritin and serum transferritin. Please keep this in mind: similar to B12, one comprehensive assessment found that with or without anemia, low iron status was correlated with moor motor functioning. A last thought on the subject: low maternal iron stores during pregnancy will predispose a developing fetus to suboptimal iron status at birth and thereafter. This is important since many people avoid red meat and eggs as a means of reducing cholesterol levels and improving overall health.
Interested in learning more? Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog where I will be exploring key nutrients such as Zinc, Selenium, Essential Fatty Acids and Proteins.
Micronutrients can prevent mutation and cancer
|A paper (J Nucleic Acids 2010 Sep 22; pii 725071 and also in the prestigious peer reviewed Pubmed) from the Nutrition and Metabolism Center at the Children´s Hospital, Oakland, California (Ames B N ) has summarised three of their recent research studies and concluded that optimising micronutrient intake will in turn optimise metabolism, decrease DNA damage and result in less cancer as well as other degenerative diseases associated with ageing.The three studies looked at
Researchers concluded that ´optimizing micronutrient intake could have a major effect on the prevention of cancer and other degenerative diseases of ageing´.
CDC Expert Announces End of Antibiotics Due to Overuse
The associate director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has announced the end of the use of antibiotics. Dr. Arjun Srinivasan says that antibacterial resistance, resulting from the overuse of antibiotics in both humans and livestock, has rendered the former “miracle drugs” useless against “superbugs.”
According to a report in the Daily Mail, Srinivasan has discussed the growing problem of antibacterial resistance throughout a series of interviews since the summer.
“For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about ‘The end of antibiotics, question mark?’” Srinivasan said in a PBS interview. “Well, now I would say you can change the title to “The end of antibiotics, period.”
In a Frontline report entitled “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria,” which aired Tuesday, Srinivasan said that both humans and livestock have been so overmedicated that bacteria are now resistant to antibiotics.
“We’re in the post-antibiotic era,” he said. “There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t.”
As an example, Srinivasan cited the recent case of three Tampa Bay Buccaneers players who reportedly contracted potentially dangerous MRSA infections which, until recently, were mostly found in hospitals.
About a decade ago, however, Srinivasan said he began seeing outbreaks of different types of MRSA infections in schools and gyms.
“In hospitals, when you see MRSA infections, you oftentimes see that in patients who have a catheter in their blood, and that creates an opportunity for MRSA to get into their bloodstream,” he said. “In the community, it was causing a very different type of infection. It was causing a lot of very, very serious and painful infections of the skin, which was completely different from what we would see in health care.”
Since bacteria have developed resistance to conventional antibiotics, doctors have been returning to some older, but more dangerous, cures such as colistin.
“It’s very toxic,” said Srinivasan. “We don’t like to use it. It damages the kidneys. But we’re forced to use it in a lot of instances.”
The first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered in 1928 by Scottish Professor Alexander Fleming. The discovery led to the successful treatment of millions of people suffering from illnesses that were once thought to be deadly. In addition, procedures such as organ transplants and chemotherapy, which weaken the immune system, creating greater susceptibility to infection, became possible due to its use. Penicillin-related antibiotics such as ampicillin, amoxicillin, and benzylpenicillin are widely in use today to treat various infections.
The CDC director said that people have allowed bacterial resistance through rampant overuse and misuse of antibiotics.
“These drugs are miracle drugs, these antibiotics that we have, but we haven’t taken good care of them over the 50 years that we’ve had them,” he said.
Concerns about antimicrobial resistance led the World Health Organization (WHO) to warn that a health emergency of global proportions could result without the antibiotics needed to combat multi-drug resistance bacteria that are spreading around the world.
“Antibiotic resistance is one of the foremost issues that will affect healthcare worldwide, including Australia, in the coming decades,” said Thomas Gottlieb, president of the Australasian Society for infectious Diseases, and advisor to pharmaceutical companies Novartis, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Janssen-Cilag.
Srinivasan said pharmaceutical companies are at least partially to blame for this problem because they have neglected the development of new and more sophisticated antibiotics that could keep up with bacterial resistance because “there’s not much money to be made” in this field.
In the Frontline report, journalist David Hoffman discussed the lack of economic incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics:
[In the ’50s and ’60s] I think there was something like 150 classes of new antibiotics. And although there were warnings then that if we misused them that resistance would grow, you could just see in the marketplace new ones coming on every couple of years. … I think we got very, very complacent. … In the ’80s and particularly in the ’90s we went around the bend a little bit because the science didn’t continue to produce new antibiotics at that rate, and the economics of drug development changed rather remarkably. …
We’re bombarded with advertisements that there are drugs now to treat chronic diseases … that you would take for the rest of your life. And you can imagine, if you’re in drug development, if you create and invent one of these drugs that can tackle a chronic disease that people will take forever, the return on investment for the drug companies to develop those big blockbuster drugs … that became irresistible.
But think about antibiotics. If they’re taken properly, you take them only for a short course, a couple of weeks maybe, and then you stop and you forget it, you get better. … So the economics of making antibiotics wasn’t going to make these big profits for the drug companies. And slowly, but with increasing frequency, they begun [sic] to pull out of research on antibiotics.
Shila Kaur, a health consultant with Third World Network, writes that besides low return on investment, however, big pharmaceutical companies also complain of another obstacle: the “lack of regulatory clarity from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has reportedly made it increasingly difficult for antibiotic development to overcome all the necessary regulatory hurdles.
Critics of Big Pharma, however, observe that fast-tracking regulatory approval procedures might compromise drug safety while it also makes antibiotic development more profitable for big drug companies at the expense of smaller ones, the latter of which actually have the ability to research superbugs and new antibiotics while they earn profits due to lower overhead costs.
“There are only a handful of companies like us out there,” said Steve Gilman, chief scientific officer and executive vice president of Cubist, a bio-pharmaceutical company based in Lexington, Massachusetts. “We’re focusing exclusively on the superbugs of today and other types of anti-resistant bacteria,” he told CNBC.
“Our guidance for R&D [research and development] for 2013 is between $400 and $420 million, with the bulk of that focused on antibiotics,” he added.
“Our overhead is much less than a larger firm,” Gilman said about Cubist, a publicly-traded company which reported net revenue in 2012 of $926.4 million, up 23 percent from 2011. “We’ve been able to find a steady stream of revenues that keeps growing. We’re happy to pursue a $500 million market, where the bigger firms won’t.”
“I don’t think the bigger pharmaceutical firms are going to change their mind about getting back into antibiotic research anytime soon,” Gilman said. “It’s up to us (smaller firms) to get this solved.”
Role of micronutrients in sport and physical activity
Ron J Maughan
Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Aberdeen Medical School, Aberdeen, UK
Many micronutrients play key roles in energy metabolism and, during strenuous physical activity, the rate of energy turnover in skeletal muscle may be increased up to 20-100 times the resting rate. Although an adequate vitamin and mineral status is essential for normal health, marginal deficiency states may only be apparent when the metabolic rate is high. Prolonged strenuous exercise performed on a regular basis may also result in increased losses from the body or in an increased rate of turnover, resulting in the need for an increased dietary intake. An increased food intake to meet energy requirements will increase dietary micronutrient intake, but athletes in hard training may need to pay particular attention to their intake of iron, calcium and the antioxidant vitamins. Prof. R J Maughan, Department of Biomedical Sciences. University Medical School, Foresterhill,Aberdeen
For normal health to be maintained, a wide range of vitamins, minerals and trace elements must be present in adequate amounts in the body tissues, and the dietary intake must be sufficient to meet the requirement. Many vitamins and minerals play key roles in energy metabolism, and the adverse effect of deficiencies of these components is well recognised and easily demonstrated. Marginal deficiency states may have little effect on the sedentary individual, but small impairments of exercise capacity may have profound consequences for the serious athlete. Regular intense exercise training may also increase micronutrient requirements, either by increasing degradation rates or by increasing losses from the body. Consequently, there is a great interest shown by athletes in some of these dietary components because of their role in maintaining or enhancing physical performance. There is often, however, a failure to appreciate that it is not inevitably, or indeed even generally, the case that increasing micronutrient intake to levels above those that are adequate for maintaining health will improve athletic performance.
Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage
Contributed by Bruce N. Ames, October 6, 2006 (received for review September 20, 2006)
Inadequate dietary intakes of vitamins and minerals are widespread, most likely due to excessive consumption of energy-rich, micronutrient-poor, refined food. Inadequate intakes may result in chronic metabolic disruption, including mitochondrial decay. Deficiencies in many micronutrients cause DNA damage, such as chromosome breaks, in cultured human cells or in vivo. Some of these deficiencies also cause mitochondrial decay with oxidant leakage and cellular aging and are associated with late onset diseases such as cancer. I propose DNA damage and late onset disease are consequences of a triage allocation response to micronutrient scarcity. Episodic shortages of micronutrients were common during evolution. Natural selection favors short-term survival at the expense of long-term health. I hypothesize that short-term survival was achieved by allocating scarce micronutrients by triage, in part through an adjustment of the binding affinity of proteins for required micronutrients. If this hypothesis is correct, micronutrient deficiencies that trigger the triage response would accelerate cancer, aging, and neural decay but would leave critical metabolic functions, such as ATP production, intact. Evidence that micronutrient malnutrition increases late onset diseases, such as cancer, is discussed. A multivitamin-mineral supplement is one low-cost way to ensure intake of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of micronutrients throughout life.
Poor nutrition has been linked to an increased risk of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The human diet requires both macronutrients, which are the main source of calories, and micronutrients (≈40 essential minerals, vitamins, and other biochemicals), which are required for virtually all metabolic and developmental processes. The leading dietary sources of energy in the United States are abundant in carbohydrates and fats (1) but deficient in micronutrients (i.e., they are energy-dense and nutrient-poor) (2). Such foods are inexpensive and tasty and as a consequence are consumed excessively, particularly by the poor (3). Thus, even in the United States (4), inadequate intake of some vitamins and minerals is common (Table 1). Suboptimal consumption of micronutrients (4) often accompanies caloric excess (6, 88) and may be the norm among the obese and contribute to the pathologies associated with obesity.
Significant chronic metabolic disruption may occur when consumption of a micronutrient is below the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) (7–10) but above the level that causes acute symptoms. When one component of the metabolic network is inadequate, there may be a variety of repercussions in metabolism, including acceleration of degenerative diseases. The optimum intake of each micronutrient necessary to maximize a healthy lifespan remains to be determined and could even be higher than the current RDA, particularly for some populations (7, 10). For example, folic acid intakes above the RDA appear to be necessary to minimize chromosome breaks (10, 11).
Use of micronutrients attenuates cannabis and nicotine abuse as evidenced from a reversal design: a case study
- Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Prior research shows that micronutrients, particularly amino acids, can assist individuals with substance dependence to quit various drugs of abuse, including cannabis, alcohol, and cocaine. As part of a wider investigation of the impact of micronutrients (mostly vitamins and minerals) on psychiatric symptoms, such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, and anxiety, we observed that many participants reduced or eliminated use of alcohol, cigarettes, and cannabis. One case using a single-case reversal (off-on-off-on-off) design is presented and shows not only on-off control of psychiatric symptoms as micronutrients are consumed or withdrawn, but also simultaneous on-off use of cannabis and cigarettes, despite not directly targeting this substance use as part of the treatment protocol. This case adds to a growing body of research supporting the use of micronutrients in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms and suggests it may extend to substance dependence. Micronutrients, by assisting with mood regulation and reductions in anxiety, may assist with successful cessation of drug use. Alternatively, they may directly impact on the brain reward circuitry believed to be involved in the expression of addictions, thereby providing the appropriate precursors and cofactors necessary for adequate neurotransmitter synthesis. This case should continue to stimulate researchers to consider the role of nutrients, in particular vitamins and minerals, in drug treatment programs and encourage more rigorous trials.
Can micronutrients improve neurocognitive functioning in adults with ADHD and severe mood dysregulation? A pilot study.
- Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Little research has investigated how micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) affect cognitive functioning, despite preliminary studies showing they may improve psychiatric functioning.
The formula was consumed in an open-label trial over an 8-week period.
The participants completed tests of memory (Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning) and executive functioning (Delis-Kaplan Executive Functioning System and Conners Continuous Performance Test) at baseline and at the end of the trial. A gender- and age-matched control group of 14 non-ADHD adults not taking the formula were assessed on the same tests 8 weeks apart in order to investigate the impact of practice on the results.
There were no group differences in ethnicity, socio-economic status and estimated IQ. Significant improvement was observed in the ADHD group, but not the control group, across a range of verbal abilities including verbal learning, verbal cognitive flexibility and fluency, and verbal inhibition. These neurocognitive improvements were large and consistent with improved psychiatric functioning. No changes were noted above a practice effect in visual-spatial memory and there were no improvements noted in reaction time, working memory, or rapid naming for either groups.
Although the pilot and open-label design of the study limits the generalizability of the results, it supports a growing body of literature recognizing the importance of nutrients for mental health and cognition. The results also provide evidence supporting the need for randomized clinical trials of micronutrients as well as other experimental studies in order to better assess whether improved neurocognitive functioning may contribute to
Successful treatment of bipolar disorder II and ADHD with a micronutrient formula: a case study.
- University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Bipolar disorder with co-occurring attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a challenge to treat. Ten previous reports have shown potential benefit of a micronutrient treatment (consisting mainly of vitamins and minerals) for various psychiatric symptoms, including mood and ADHD. This case study aimed to investigate the longer term impact of the micronutrients on both psychiatric and neurocognitive functioning in an off-on-off-on (ABAB) design with 1 year follow-up. A 21-year-old female with bipolar II disorder, ADHD, social anxiety, and panic disorder entered an open-label trial using a nutritional treatment following a documented 8 year history of on-going psychiatric symptoms not well managed by medications. After 8 weeks on the formula she showed significant improvements in mood, anxiety, and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Blood test results remained normal after 8 weeks on the formula. She did not report any adverse side effects associated with the treatment. She then chose to come off the formula; after 8 weeks her depression scores returned to baseline, and anxiety and ADHD symptoms worsened. The formula was reintroduced, showing gradual improvement in all psychiatric symptoms. This case represents a naturalistic ABAB design showing on-off control of symptoms. After 1 year, the patient is now in remission from all mental illness. Neurocognitive changes mirrored behavioral changes, showing improved processing speed, consistency in response speed, and verbal memory. A placebo response and expectancy effects cannot be ruled out although previous poor response to treatment and the duration of the current positive response decrease the likelihood that other factors better explain change. These consistently positive outcomes alongside an absence of side effects indicate that further research, particularly larger and more controlled trials, is warranted using this multinutrient approach.
Concurrent micronutrient deficiencies in lactating mothers and their infants in Indonesia.
- Division of Human Nutrition and Epidemiology, Wageningen University, Netherlands.
Deficiencies of vitamin A, iron, and zinc are prevalent worldwide, affecting vulnerable groups such as lactating women and infants. However, the existence of concurrent deficiencies has received little attention.
The aim was to investigate the extent to which deficiencies of vitamin A, iron, and zinc coexist and the nutritional relation between lactating mothers and their infants.
In a cross-sectional survey in rural West Java, Indonesia, 155 lactating mothers and their healthy infants were assessed anthropometrically and blood, urine, and breast-milk samples were obtained.
Marginal vitamin A deficiency was found in 54% of the infants and 18% of the mothers. More than 50% of the mothers and infants were anemic and 17% of the infants and 25% of the mothers were zinc deficient. There was a strong interrelation between the micronutrient status of the mothers and infants and the concentrations of retinol and beta-carotene in breast milk. Vitamin A deficiency in infants led to an increased risk of anemia and zinc deficiency (odds ratios: 2.5 and 2.9, respectively), whereas in mothers the risk of anemia and iron deficiency (odds ratios: 3.8 and 4.8, respectively) increased. In infants, concentrations of insulin-like growth factor I were related to concentrations of plasma retinol and beta-carotene but not to zinc.
Micronutrient deficiencies were prevalent in West Java. The micronutrient status of lactating mothers and that of their infants were closely related; breast milk was a key connecting factor for vitamin A status. Furthermore, concurrent micronutrient deficiencies appeared to be the norm.
Could Micronutrient Deficiency be a Missing Link in the Fight Against Overweight/ Obesity?
By Jayson B. Calton Ph.D. Published in the Journal of the American Association of Integrative Medicine Summer 2010
Of all the debilitating health-related conditions and diseases in America today, perhaps none is as widespread and potentially devastating as overweight/obesity. According to Dr. Richard H. Carmona, M.D., a former surgeon general of the United States, “Obesity is the terror within; unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist attempt.”1 The problem with America’s overweight/obesity epidemic is twofold: not only are the rates not declining, no one can seem to stop them from growing. According to Johns Hopkins researcher May Beydoun, “Obesity is likely to increase, and if nothing is done, it will soon become the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.2 While the media has focused largely on the rising number of overweight and obese adults, America’s youth may be the ones suffering the most, with the overweight prevalence for children and teens having tripled since 1980.3 It is hard to imagine that anyone living in America today has not been affected by the growing obesity pandemic in some way, whether personally, through family or friends, or by the rising costs of health care. While current research by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that more than two-thirds (68%) of U.S. adults and one-third (33%) of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese, the predictions concerning the future of obesity are even more sobering.4 According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Youfa Wang, estimates now predict that by 2015, 75% of all U.S. adults will be overweight or obese, by 2030 that number will be 86.3%, and by 2048 all American adults will overweight or obese.5
While nutritional and medical experts from around the world frantically try to understand the root causes of the obesity puzzle, the American people have tried just about everything they can to lose weight. Between the popular diet programs, gym memberships, hypnosis, acupuncture, cellulite creams, body wraps, infomercial contraptions, diet pills, prescription drugs, liposuction, aerobics classes, health spas, electronic abdominal stimulators, personal diet coaches, gastric bypass surgery, lap bands, fat-free foods, low-carbohydrate foods, foods whose macronutrient ratios add up the 40/30/30, vibration machines, yoga, saunas, appetite suppressants, diet drinks, exotic herbs, fasting, body cleansing, and pole dancing classes, Americans should be the skinniest people on the planet. But we’re not…why? While one of the major government objectives for 2010 was to reduce the number of obese people in America to 15%, the recently released results of that initiative show that not one state met that goal.6 In fact, a new report by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that 28 states actually increased their obesity rates. Since 1991, a dramatic increase in obesity has occurred in the United States. The report shows that in 1991 no states were recorded as having an obesity rate greater than 20%. In contrast, the latest data from 2009 shows only one state as having a prevalence of obesity less than 20% (Colorado, 19.1%), 38 states have obesity rates greater than 25%, and currently nine states have obesity prevalence greater than 30% (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia.)7
While science seems to be missing an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to slowing, stopping, and eventually reversing obesity, one recent study found a connection between being deficient in essential vitamins, minerals, and vitamin-like substances, such as CoQ10 (micronutrients) and overweight/obesity that may be worth a closer look. Published in December 2007 in Economics and Human Biology, the study found a direct link between being micronutrient deficient and being overweight or obese.8 Keeping all variables constant, the researchers concluded that the odds of being overweight or obese were 80.8% higher for the study’s micronutrient-deficient participants when compared to the studies’ non-deficient participants. Other studies lend credibility to this theory. A group of researchers out of the Medical College of Georgia set out to determine if another essential micronutrient (vitamin D) played a role in childhood obesity. Their research, presented to the American Heart Association, showed that when 650 children between the ages of 14 and 19 were tested, the students with the lowest vitamin D intake had the highest percentages of both body fat and abdominal fat.9 In a related study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers concluded that a deficiency in vitamin D was directly linked with increased body fat.10
While some may argue that micronutrient deficiency is too rare in America to be a probable cause for the obesity epidemic, recent statistics disagree. In a 2009 study published in the journal Pediatrics, American children were found to be a whopping 70% insufficient in vitamin D, and recent findings published in the Archives of Internal Medicine show three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults deficient in vitamin D.11,12 However, it is not just vitamin D Americans are deficient in—statistics from the USDA’s own Web site highlight just how widespread America’s micronutrient deficiency condition is. According to the USDA, 9 out of 10 Americans 2 years and older are deficient in potassium, 8 out of 10 are deficient in vitamin E, and more than 7 out of 10 Americans are deficient in calcium, and approximately 5 out of 10 are deficient in vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium.13 In addition, in a recent study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the popular diet plans that millions of Americans are following each year to lose weight, such as the Atkins for Life diet, the DASH diet, The Best Life Diet, and the South Beach Diet, were found to be deficient at providing minimum Recommended Daily Intakes (RDI) of 27 essential micronutrients.14 The study determined that on average, these diets left their followers deficient in 15 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B5, vitamin B7, vitamin D, vitamin E, choline, chromium, copper, iron, iodine, potassium, magnesium, sodium and zinc.
To add to America’s micronutrient deficiency epidemic, more U.S. adults are taking prescription drugs than ever before.15 Recent studies show that one of the major side effects of many of today’s most popular prescription drugs—including statins, analgesics, loop and thiazide diuretics, antacids and oral contraceptives—is vitamin and mineral depletion, which can eventually lead to micronutrient deficiency.16,17 Making matters worse, even those individuals who religiously take their daily multivitamin pill are not immune to becoming micronutrient deficient. It turns out that due to something called “micronutrient competition,” many of the vitamins and minerals found in the typical multivitamin may end up going right down the toilet. Research published in both the British Journal of Nutrition and Harvard Health Letter shows that natural competitions for absorption between many vitamins and minerals, including copper and zinc and calcium and iron, could make it so that unless a multivitamin is specially formulated to prevent micronutrient competition, many of the micronutrients in the multivitamin are simply not absorbed. 18,19
The fact is, new research is showing that micronutrient deficiency is much more of a widespread problem than previously thought. It has been proven to increase the risk factor for multiple heath conditions and diseases in both adults and children, including diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and many cancers.20 In addition, kids who start out with micronutrient deficiencies and never correct them may be putting themselves at risk for developing all of these diseases at a much earlier age. With so many people worldwide affected by overweight/obesity, coupled with the recent research showing clear links between micronutrient deficiency and overweight/obesity, it seems prudent to further examine this potential connection. When all is said and done, a micronutrient rich diet, sunlight, and proper anti-competition supplementation could turn out to be our best defense against the potentially largest, most devastating health scourge of the 21st century—the obesity pandemic.