Micronutrient Deficiencies, Supplements, and My Shameless Plug (Part 1)

“The main distinguishing characteristic between man and the lower animals is the desire to take pills.” – Mark Twain


Biochemical Pathways

So as you can see from the diagram above, this latest post has been a massive challenge.  The link below is an hour and eleven minutes long, and it is the most comprehensive breakdown on nutrition and metabolism I have watched so far.  Up to this point in time, science, when it comes to nutrition, has honestly not been well understood. The human machine is vastly complicated and it has taken a long time to understand many of the chemical reactions that are taking place in our bodies, and good scientists will tell you that we still have a long way to go, but we are getting there.

The reality is that there are 40 essential nutrients and minerals that our bodies need.  If we go without anyone of these essential nutrients for too long, we die. But would you be surprised that we are almost all deficient in one or more of these? Would you also be surprised that many of the gold standard, double-blind studies they have done on these nutrients have been designed to fail from the get go?  They have been super expensive to run, and they didn’t tell us anything useful.  Really!  I mean, think about it… how can you run a double-blind study (the gold standard in science) on the effectiveness of vitamin A if your test subjects happen to be deficient in Vitamin D or B?  So let’s clean this up a bit and cut to the heart of the matter.  We need these 40 essentials to live; if we don’t get them, we die, but if we don’t get enough we will have problems.  We will also have problems, especially with the minerals, if we take in too much.  Nature and our bodies love balance.  So I do need to be clear: more is not always better, but not enough is definitely a problem, and there is a big trade-off for our poor nutrition.  The body will sacrifice longevity for survival.  Let me repeat that again.  Our body, when undernourished, has to make a choice between the long-term and the immediate short-term.  That, once said out loud, probably makes a lot of sense, and you may now even say “okay, great, what’s the big deal then?”  Well, half of the proteins in our body are longevity proteins, responsible for longevity and maintenance processes.  This is why there are not immediate consequences for bad diet choices.  Our bodies are pulling out nutrients from the bad food to survive, but the cost is that we are aging ourselves.

Radiation and folic acid

Back in 1988, a paper was published that should have revolutionized both nutrition and our culture, but it didn’t, and I’ll leave it up to the reader to take a guess at why.  Here is what they discovered.  It has long been known that when you radiate a cell, you cause chromosome breaks, and double breaks are the worst! Double breaks are more difficult for the cell to repair. Of course, the more breaks, the greater chance of mutations, and the greater the chances of those bad mutations being passed on to the next generation of cells, thus dramatically increasing the risk for cancers.  Too many chromosome breaks, and it is very likely that you will get cancer.  Here is what they discovered in their study and experiment:  When you are deficient in folic acid, chromosome breaks start appearing all over the place as if you had been blasted by radiation.  X-rays, for example.  In fact, they were able to determine this to be almost identical.  The more X-rays you receive, the more breaks.  Likewise, the less folate you get, the more damage.  This has been repeated time and time again with the other nutrients, and similar findings keep coming up.  The less you have of a nutrient, the more damage the body incurs.  You see, our bodies are oxidizing machines, and these free radicals flying around are part and parcel of our metabolism.  We can’t escape that, so our bodies, with all the right amounts of nutrients, are able to continually run maintenance on ourselves, keeping us in optimum condition, very similar to the story of the Golden Gate Bridge; it has to be painted to keep it from rusting.  Literally as soon as they finish painting the bridge, they have to start at the beginning.  If they ever ran out of paint or skimped on an area, the bridge would rust and ultimately collapse.  That’s us! All of these “age”-related degenerative diseases from Type 2 Diabetes all the way to Alzheimer’s, and almost every cancer in between, are related to this concept of long-term nutrient deficiency and our bodies organically “rusting out.”  It is at this point that I would like to point out that the RDA (recommended daily allowances) are generally based on the minimum required for survival and to avoid such diseases as scurvy and rickets (which, if we are being honest, many of us struggle to even meet those requirements each day).

A few highlights he points out are that we do get too much sodium, but that is not the problem so much as we do not get enough potassium, which leads to cardiovascular disease.  He summarizes what happens when there is not enough folate in your diet regarding chromosome breaks, and subsequent DNA damage.  He goes into great detail about vitamin D.  It turns out there are 900 genes with binding receptors for vitamin D.  That’s huge when you consider we only have 20,000 genes.  Vitamin D is involved in the switching on of tryptophan into serotonin in the brain.  Serotonin is a key hormone in the brain, responsible for a host of behavioral patterns.  This leads to a summary of the strong link between vitamin-D deficiency and Autism, because of this switch not being turned on in the brain.  We can get vitamin D from our food, but it is primarily made by our bodies from sunlight.  Now, as you will know, sunlight is very latitude-dependent.  And if you have dark skin, that evolved to protect you from the harmful rays in the tropical regions.  However, if you live in Montreal (he used Chicago as an example,) you will find it extraordinarily difficult to get adequate vitamin D from sunlight.  That is why lighter, fairer skin evolved so that we could allow as much sunlight in.  In fact, it is estimated that 95% of African-Americans are vitamin-D deficient, and 70% of the overall population is deficient, because we are just not outside enough, or eating enough of the right foods to get what we need.

The 40 Essentials

Biotin Folic Acid Niacin Pantothenate
Riboflavin Thaimine Vitamin A Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12 Vitamin C Vitamin D Vitamin E
Vitamin K Calcium Chloride Chromium
Cobalt Copper Iodide Iron
Magnesium Manganese Molybdenum Phosphorus
Potassium Selenium Sodium Zinc
Linolenic Acid (Omega 3) Linoleuic Acid (Omega 6) Isoleucine Leucine
Lysine Methionine Phenylalanine Theonine
Tryptophan Valine Histidine Choline


A couple of other points he touches on are that we should be getting our omega 3’s and omega 6’s in a 1-2 or 1-1 ratio, but nowadays, we are pushing 1-17, having too much 6 and not enough 3’s.  It is the 3’s that our brain needs (in a sense, we are all “fat heads”).  We are very deficient in our omega 3 intake.  Calcium needs to be in ratio to magnesium at about 2:1, and around 45% of the population is magnesium deficient. He also highlights zinc.  Now, only 8% of the general population is low in zinc, but he points out it is involved in over 2000 reactions in the human body.  So it is important.

My next chart is taken right from the video, and it highlights just a few essentials and what can go wrong when you are deficient.

Calcium Defiency

Fenech: Chromosome breaks

Lipkin: Colon cancer in mice

Folate Deficiency

MacGregor/Ames/Fenech: Chromosome breaks in mice/humans

Vitamin D Deficiency

Holick: Epi many types of Cancer

Magnesium Deficiency

Bell: Chromosome breaks in humans

Larson: Epi colorectal cancer humans

Zinc Deficiency

Fong: esophageal cancer humans/rodents

Potassium Deficiency

Chang: Cardiovascular disease

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Fenech: Chromosome breaks

Selenium Deficiency

Rao: DNA damage

Combs/Trumbo: Cancer in humans

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency

Denkins:  Cancers

Niacin Deficiency

Kirkland/Depeint: DNA damage

Choline Deficiency

da Costa: DNA damage in humans


Now, we can look at where the bulk of our energy is coming from. This chart shows statistically where 20-30 year olds are, on average, deriving most of their calories.

Energy Source Percentage
1.      Regular soft drinks 8.8
2.      Pizza 5.1
3.      Beer 3.9
4.      Hamburgers, meatloaf 3.4
5.      White bread 3.3
6.      Cake, doughnuts, pastries 3.3
7.      French fries, fried potato 3.0
8.      Potato chips, corn chips, popcorn 2.7
9.      Rice 2.6
10.   Cheese or cheese spread 2.5
                                                                             Total: 38.6%


As you can see, one of these, in and of itself, would not be so bad, but when you add it all up…. Over a third of our diet is food that has very little, if any, of the things we need to make our bodies run optimally.  Sodas are the worst!  40 grams of sugar and zero nutrients!  People who are overweight and obese are certainly deficient in many of the nutrients we require.  He does not bring it up, but I’m going to make for the case that most of us may not feel necessarily bad, but that is because we actually do not know what it is to feel really, really good.  Feeling full of energy and vitality!  We may not feel sick, but I think it is safe to say we are not at our best!

So below is the link to the video, and I highly recommend you take an hour and watch it.  You will learn a lot!

Bruce Ames: Vitamin and Mineral Inadequacy Accelerates Aging-associated Disease


Everson RB, Wehr CM, Erexson GL, and MacGregor JT. (1988) J. Natl Cancer Inst 80:525-9