Getting enough micronutrients through a supposedly healthy diet can be difficult. A dietary supplement may help to compensate for nutritional deficits.
It is often claimed that a balanced diet provides all essential nutrients in sufficient quantities. In this newsletter we take a critical look at whether this is really the case and what problems may arise with regard to micronutrient supply.
The problem of food production. Natural foods such as fruit and vegetables grow mainly in monocultures, which is the cultivation or growth of a single crop on an entire field. The problem with monocultures is that certain nutrients become depleted from the soil due to the crop’s specific nutrient demand. Therefore fertilizers must be used to encourage plant growth. This contradicts the natural regeneration of the soil so that the plant growing on it, which is now deficient in nutrients, may no longer be able to withstand attacks from insects and pests. Consequently, in order to prevent damage to crops, farmers resort to using pesticides.
Another problem is the premature harvesting of fruits and vegetables so that they can survive thousands of miles of transport and long storage periods. Scientists have discovered that most of the protective nutrients are produced in the last stage of ripening. If the plant is deprived of this important ripening period, it will not be able to provide us with the cellular nutrients we need.
Furthermore, the average diet is usually characterized by a high degree of food processing. In a processed industrial product, there are hardly any micronutrients or dietary fiber left. Moreover, micronutrient losses may even increase during meal preparation (e.g. peeling and cooking).
Considering that a significant proportion of our food products is processed, it is obvious that the body’s cellular metabolism can be put into a dangerous imbalance if we do not compensate for nutritional deficits by adopting a more conscious purchasing behavior or appropriate food supplementation.
The problem of an insufficient intake. The 2012 nutrition report¹ of the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung, DGE) revealed that many individuals did not meet the minimum recommended daily intake of 400 g of vegetables and 250 g of fruit per day. The nutrition report of 2016² did not show any improvements either––on the contrary, there was a clear downward trend in the consumption of fresh fruit.
Both the decreasing nutrient content as well as the decreasing consumption of natural products contribute to the fact that we do not get enough cellular nutrients through our diets.
The problem of an increased demand. Our modern living conditions and eating habits involve further factors which can cause a deficiency of cellular nutrients. For example, smoking, alcohol and stress lead to an accelerated breakdown of the cellular nutrient concentration in the body, which is usually much too low anyway.
There is a multitude of other harmful substances in the environment that burden the body and may impair its functions. The cells of the detoxification organs require micronutrients in order to maintain the highest performance level. With every breath, we use up cellular nutrients to scavenge free radicals that enter our lungs from car and industrial exhaust gases. This is especially the case for people living in a large city or conurbation.
Some of the most dangerous “vitamin thieves” are artificial chemicals, such as preservatives and those found in pharmaceutical preparations. These chemicals are recognized by the body as foreign, i.e. as “poisons”, and must be disposed of––again by using up cellular nutrients. If these substances are ingested over many years, this almost inevitably leads to a chronic micronutrient depletion.
Another cause is the increased need for cellular nutrients at certain life stages. These include growing, pregnancy and lactation. Athletes and other physically active people also have an increased demand for bioenergy and cellular nutrients. The same applies to patients who are at higher risk for micronutrient deficiency due to particular disease processes which constantly consume a large number of cellular nutrients.
Lastly, older people also have a partly increased and very specific demand for cellular nutrients. In addition, with advancing age the absorption of micronutrients in the digestive tract is impaired.
Why getting micronutrients from supplements can be useful. On closer inspection it becomes clear that getting enough micronutrients through the diet can be difficult––even if we eat a supposedly healthy diet. As a result, we can quickly develop a cellular nutrient deficiency without even realizing it. But where do we get our micronutrients from?
Food supplements are concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber or secondary plant substances intended to supplement the normal diet. Contrary to popular claims that nutritional supplementation is completely unnecessary, dietary supplements can fill the gap left by an inadequate diet, thereby helping to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
- German Nutrition Society. The Nutrition Report 2012 Summary. Bonn, Germany; 2013. P.18.
- German Nutrition Society. 13th DGE-Nutrition Report Summary. Bonn, Germany; 2016. P.7.