The nutrition gap

‘Can a vitamin pill a day keep the doctor away?’ ran a BBC headline last year.1 As the article correctly stated, with so many vitamin and mineral supplements now available it is difficult to know which will be of benefit to your health.

Indeed, with a market that is becoming increasingly saturated, making an informed decision when it comes to choosing the supplement that is ‘right’ for you or your clients is arguably more difficult than ever.

On top of this, there is a general lack of knowledge regarding the criteria for taking a vitamin and mineral supplement and this is highlighted by the aforementioned BBC article. The article posed the question ‘Who may benefit from taking a supplement?’ and goes on to list the elderly, women trying to conceive, those on a poor diet etc. However, in reality even those in apparent good health are also likely to have sub-optimal intakes of certain micronutrients that are essential for optimal health.

In this week’s blog, we discuss factors that may contribute to low intakes of micronutrients and the philosophy of food based supplements.

Skip to Key Takeaways

The nutrition gap

For many years now at Cytoplan we have presented the rationale that there is a nutrition gap in the diets of most people by virtue of several factors. The nutrition gap describes the difference between the levels of nutrients the average person, eating a reasonable Western diet, is obtaining from food, and those nutrient levels identified by research as being needed for optimal health in the population. The nutritional status of our bodies is dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • Our food choices
  • Food growing, processing and preparation methods
  • The nutrient content of the food we eat
  • The ability of our bodies to assimilate these nutrients
  • Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, stress, alcohol intake, medications etc. which give rise to increased nutrient requirements
  • Our level of activity
  • Our genetics

Food choices and the nutrient content of the food we eat

A significant factor in the nutrition gap is our food choices. Many people’s diets are high in refined, processed foods that offer low nutrient density and empty calories. In addition, studies have shown that the levels of nutrients in our foods have changed. So even those who aim to eat a diet focussed on wholefoods may not be achieving optimal intake of certain nutrients – because intensive farming and other factors has resulted in reduced nutrient content of foods.

A government study between 1940 and 1991 determined the mineral content of a number of foods – 27 varieties of vegetable, 17 varieties of fruit, 10 cuts of meat and some milk and cheese products. The results “demonstrate that in every subgroup of foods investigated there has been a substantial loss in their mineral content”.2 For example, between 1978 and 1991 in vegetables there was an average loss of zinc of 59%.

Medications

Some prescription medications can also have a significant impact on nutrient status.

A study published in September 2017 found that more than 49% of people 65 plus, were taking at least 5 medications a day,3 this has led to concerns over the impacts of taking multiple medications long term. Medications can have a significant effect on our nutrient status and increase nutrient requirements, for example by increasing excretion of certain nutrients or reducing the body’s own production.

Some common medications that have an effect are:4,5

Statins – inhibit the enzyme which produces Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an essential part of energy production as well as an important antioxidant, particularly for the cardiovascular system. Therefore, it is advisable to supplement CoQ10 when taking statins.

Diuretics – as diuretics increase urination they also increase the excretion of minerals particularly electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium). A study also identified that people who take diuretics long term have lower red blood cell folate levels and high homocysteine.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (antacids) – these inhibit the production of stomach acid and therefore can have an effect on overall nutrient digestion. However, they are most associated with a reduction of minerals, folate and B12 as well as beta-carotene absorption.

Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) – cause damage to the digestive lining which can in itself cause inflammation, contribute to reduced nutrient absorption and disrupt the balance of the microbiome.

Acid-reducing medications – These are medications that people who suffer bad heartburn or reflux may take. They are designed for short-term use but some people take them for long periods of time. Omeprazole is one, there is also ranitidine, lansoprazole and others. Taken for long periods these can reduce B12, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin C and minerals.

Antibiotics – reduce levels of B vitamins, vitamin K and friendly gut bacteria. This is partly because antibiotics kill some of our friendly gut bacteria which synthesise B vitamins and vitamin K.

According to US website www.mytavin.com, taking a combination of diclofenac (for pain, omeprazole (an antacid) and simvastatin (a statin) could lead to depletion of the following nutrients:

  • Folic Acid
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • B12
  • Calcium
  • Selenium
  • Magnesium
  • Omega-3
  • Melatonin
  • Probiotics
  • CoQ10

Bruce Ames’ triage theory

Professor Bruce Ames is an American biochemist and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He proposed the theory that the body has developed a rationing response to shortages of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) throughout evolution. In other words that the first call on nutrients by our body will be for immediate and acute needs – for example energy production or ‘fright and flight’. So it is only if nutrients are ingested in excess of immediate needs that there will be sufficient left for ‘housekeeping’ processes.

When a particular micronutrient is in short supply, Professor Ames proposes that its use will be prioritised to processes that are critical to short-term survival, at the expense of long-term health. Thus in his 2006 paper, he concludes:6

Natural selection favours short term survival at the expense of long-term health. I hypothesize that short-term survival was achieved by allocation scarce micronutrients by triage. If this hypothesis is correct, micronutrient deficiencies that trigger the triage response would accelerate cancer, ageing and neural decay but would leave critical metabolic functions such as ATP production intact. A multivitamin-mineral supplement is one low-cost way to ensure intake of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of micronutrients throughout life.

Professor Ames proposes that limiting these micronutrient deficiencies is key to preventing the onset of the diseases of ageing, and we can do this by supplementing these vitamins and minerals.

At the end of last year (aged 90!) Professor Ames published a new paper7 extending this idea to other nutrients required for the function of longevity proteins. Thus in this recent paper he discusses other dietary compounds including lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, astaxanthin, taurine and pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ).

So if a supplement is needed, what is a well-formulated supplement?

We were not designed to swallow vitamin pills; we were designed to eat food. However, as discussed above dietary intakes of key nutrients have declined, conversely, our demanding lifestyle has increased the demand for nutrients and created imbalances. As a consequence, the need for additional micronutrients is probably greater now than at any time in the last century.

A well-formulated supplement is one that provides the nutrients a person needs to help make up for the nutrition gap, and importantly in a bio-effective form. Since conception in 1990, Cytoplan’s philosophy has been that nutrients are best delivered to the body “in the same form as food” hence our range of Food State™ and Wholefood supplements. But we are often asked “what are Food State™ and Wholefood supplements, and what does this mean?” Food State and Wholefood vitamins and minerals come complete with the associated food factors and other food nutrients with which they occur in whole foods.

Cytoplan Food State™ nutrients

Food state™ nutrients are combined in a variety of appropriate food bases which would naturally carry significant levels of the nutrient. This ensures they come complete with the phytonutrients and associated food factors that are necessary for optimal absorption, use and retention in the body.

Food State™ vitamin C, for example, is presented in a citrus pulp that also contains the flavonoids naturally present in citrus fruit. Food State™ vitamin E comes complete with all the eight tocopherols and tocotrienols that make it a natural food complex. Beta carotene is complexed with carrot concentrate. B vitamins are provided in a base of inactive Lactobacillus bulgaricus, an appropriate non-allergenic carrier base for most nutrients as it is a native inhabitant of the human gastrointestinal tract.

Cytoplan Wholefood Nutrients

Cytoplan Wholefood Nutrients are derived from a number of natural plant sources including vitamin D from lichen, vitamin C from acerola cherry and minerals from Brassica juncea, a cruciferous vegetable similar to broccoli. This edible Brassica plant has a great capacity to bio-accumulate high levels of minerals to enable good levels to be achieved in small doses of supplementation. These nutrients are thus in the same form as in conventional foods; just in much higher levels. The other great advantage of natural plant minerals is that they contain thousands of phytonutrients which have complementary and beneficial action in the human body.

Minerals are taken up from the hydroponic growth solution into the root systems of the plants. They are transported into the leaf and become tissue metabolised into the plant leaf tissue. This is the natural process that also occurs during normal plant growth from the soil.

The advantage of using a hydroponic growth medium is that the mineral levels can be controlled, the growing environment can be kept consistent and the nutrition, temperature and light can be kept at optimum for growth, allowing a consistent and mineral rich product to be produced all year round. Once the plants are ready to be harvested “Phytoscan” technology (spectroscopy) is used to assure potency of the product. It shows the location of each mineral to confirm biotransformation.

Use of methylated, reduced forms and augmentation of levels

However, we should point out that methylated and reduced forms of nutrients do not naturally occur in plant material and these are the forms of certain nutrients that are recognised as being more bio-effective, for example, methylfolate has greater activity in the body than folic acid. Therefore, in order to produce the most bio-effective products, where appropriate, we add methylated nutrients to our formulations. Equally important is optimising the levels of all nutrients to meet needs and in order to achieve this, certain nutrients may be augmented above that which can be achieved from food.

Key Takeaways

  • The nutrition gap describes the difference between the levels of nutrients the average person, eating a reasonable Western diet, is obtaining from food, and those nutrient levels identified by research as being needed for optimal health in the population
  • Nutrient shortfalls are caused by a number of different factors including dietary intake and changes in food nutrient content. For example, between 1978 and 1991 in vegetables there was an average loss of zinc of 59%
  • A study published in September 2017 found that more than 49% of people 65 plus, were taking at least 5 medications a day.3 Medications can have a significant effect on our nutrient status and increase nutrient requirements, for example by increasing excretion of certain nutrients or reducing the body’s own production
  • Professor of Biochemistry, Bruce Ames has proposed a theory suggesting that the body has developed a rationing response to shortages of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). In other words that the first call on nutrients by our body will be for immediate and acute needs – for example, energy production. So it is only if nutrients are ingested in excess of immediate needs that there will be sufficient left for ‘housekeeping’ and repair processes. He recommends that everyone takes a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement
  • A well-formulated supplement is one that provides all the nutrients a person needs to help make up for the nutrition gap, and importantly in a bio-effective form
  • Since conception in 1990, Cytoplan’s philosophy has been that nutrients are best delivered to the body “in the same form as food” hence our range of Food State™ and Wholefood supplements; these come complete with the associated food factors and other food nutrients with which they occur in whole foods.

If you have any questions regarding the topics that have been raised, or any other health matters, please do contact me (Clare) by phone or email at any time.

[email protected], 01684 310099

Clare Daley and the Cytoplan Editorial Team


Relevant Cytoplan Products

CoQ10 Multi – our most comprehensive Wholefood mulivitamin and mineral formula available incorporating antioxidant CoQ10, beta glucan and good all-round vitamin and mineral levels.

Wholefood Multi – containing minerals that have been hydroponically grown into a cruciferous vegetable resembling broccoli. Excellent levels of all important nutrients including antioxidants and vitamin D.

Foundation Formula 1 – two-a-day Food State multivitamin and mineral formula – ideally suited to youngsters and menstruating women. Contains optimal levels of antioxidant minerals plus B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and 1-3, 1-6 Beta Glucan for additional support.

Foundation Formula 2 – multivitamin and mineral formula suited for men and post-menopausal women. A good all-round formula in an easy to take tablet that includes optimally high levels of Selenium, Zinc and Chromium for good antioxidant protection.

Little People – for children 4 and over, teenagers and lightweight adults; a Food State one-a-day multivitamin & mineral in a very small tablet. This supplement is high in antioxidant minerals and B-complex vitamins.

Pregna-Plan – specifically formulated for all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s also suitable for preconception planning for women too.

P5P Extra – a comprehensive high potency vitamin B-complex in a beneficial Food State form, it is designed to support the adrenal glands and those with a demanding lifestyle.

Cherry C – the fruit of the acerola cherry tree is rich in vitamin C, flavonoids and carotenoids, with the cherry-like fruits being one of the richest known natural sources of vitamin C. Acerola cherry also contains a whole array of bioflavonoids, vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients.

Vitamin D3 –  a Wholefood supplement derived from Lichen ideal for vegetarians and vegans. One tablet provides 62.5µg.

Bone Support – multi-nutrient formulation is specifically tailored for those who are concerned about bone health and bone mineral density, providing calcium along with other nutrients that are important for bones – magnesium, boron, vitamin D3 and K2.

Wholefood Iron – a gentle non-constipating and bio-effective bound form of iron that follows food metabolic pathways and is contained in an easy-to-take capsule.

Biofood Magnesium – magnesium is an essential mineral that is a cofactor for over 300 enzymes. Our Food State magnesium tablets are combined in a base of inactive Lactobacillus bulgaricus,  a native and friendly bacterial inhabitant of the digestive tract.

Wholefood Zinc – zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body, being present in all tissue. Our Wholefood Zinc is a gentle, safe and bio-effective supplement in an easy-to-take capsule

For our full range of Food State and Wholefood supplements please click here


References

  1. https://www.bbc.com/food/diets/should_you_take_vitamin_supplements
  2. Thomas, D. (2003) ‘A Study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991’. Nutrition and Health, 17, pp. 85-115 0260-1060
  3. Gao, lu. et al. (2017). ‘Medication usage change in older people (65+) in England over 20 years: findings from CFAS I and CFAS II’. Age and Ageing. 1-6. 10.1093/ageing/afx158
  4. A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Nutrient Interactions. AR Gaby. 2006. Healthnotes
  5. www.mytavin.com
  6. Ames, B. (2006) ‘Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage’. PNAS, 103, 47, 17589-94
  7. Ames, B. (2018) ‘Prolonging healthy aging: longevity vitamins and proteins. PNAS, 115, 45, 10836-44

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