Almost no one in America is getting all the nutrients they need for a healthy life. Neither elite athletes nor sedentary people are supplying enough nutrients to their bodies to restore or maintain their health.
Deficiencies of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals can can cause DNA damage just like excessive doses of radiation. These deficiencies cause single and double-strand breaks and oxidative lesions that are similar to the DNA damage of radiation. This damage can lead to numerous diseases.
Around 80% of young people and more than two-thirds of adults are not getting the recommended nutrients from real fruits and vegetables. The 25% of people eating the fewest fruits and vegetables have nearly twice the cancer rate as the 25% of the population consuming the most fruits and vegetables.
Health is a Choice
While the United States spends more on “health care” than any other nation, it ranks poorly in nearly every area of health. (See an example of how to evaluate health in the Global Reference List of 100 Core Health Indicators.)
Why is this?
Dr.Steven A. Schroeder, Department of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco indicated that “the pathways to better health do not generally depend on better health care.” He further states that, “Health is influenced by factors in five domains — genetics, social circumstances, environmental exposures, behavioral patterns, and health care. The single greatest opportunity to improve health and reduce premature deaths lies in personal behavior. In fact, behavioral causes account for nearly 40% of all deaths in the United States.”
While we often equate “health care” with “medical care,” we need to realize that most people use health care when they are sick. They see their doctor after some disease or condition has hit them. The system of medicine we have is “sick care” rather than “health care.” Our current medical system is surely not “preventive” health care.
True health care is the care and practices that prolong an energetic, vibrant and healthy life.
Health Care Consists of Healthy Choices
Perhaps the most important choices we can make regarding health is what we eat.
IA report about the changing American diet indicates we are consuming more calories each day. We’ve gone from 2075 calories a day in 1970 to 2535 calories per day in 2010. Other estimates indicate we, in North America, are consuming well over 3500 calories per day.
While we consume way too many calories, we are not consuming foods that provide us proper nutrition. Every function in the body requires one or more minerals. When we do not have enough of these essential minerals there will be some problems with metabolism or other functions.
The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of various nutrients is considered adequate for 97-98% of already healthy people. Yet, our standard American diet (often abbreviated SAD) is not working to supply these minimum requirements for health.
Some characteristics of these deficiencies are:
- One out of 10 people in the US is sufficiently deficient in folate (vitamin B9) to cause chromosome breaks.
- 4% of the US population consume less than half the required amount of vitamin B12.
- Nearly 1 in 10 Americans get less than half the RDA of vitamin B6.
- Around 1 in 7 Americans get less than half the required ascorbate (vitamin C) of 60 mg per day.
- 1 in 5 people in the US are getting less than half their requirements for vitamin E.
- Around 2.3% of the population get less than half their requirement of niacin (vitamin B3)
- About 7% of Americans including (19% of women) get less than 50% of the required iron.
- Nearly 18% of Americans get less than half the daily requirement of zinc.
These are rather severe shortages of nutrients. It’s clear from just this short list that there is going to be a great need for medical care in the United States.
While you may think that you are eating properly and getting all the nutrients you need, this may not be the case. One study examined 14 elite athletes as well as 6 sedentary subjects. Their diets were analyzed for the RDAs of 170 micronutrients. Researchers found that none of the 20 subjects received the minimum nutrients.
If fact, males averaged deficiencies in 40% of the vitamins and 54.2% in the required minerals; overall, males were deficient in 78 of the 170 micronutrients. Females had 29% deficiencies in vitamins and 44.2% deficiencies in minerals; overall this showed deficiencies of 60 of the 170 micronutrients.
Many people, whether you look like an elite athlete or not, are going to get sick and require medical care.
On the other hand, health care is a choice. Health care can come from sources of the nutrients your body needs to prevent illness and keep you healthy. And, some of the best sources of most micronutrients are fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and Vegetables
Over the last half century many changes have been made to agriculture. And, some of these changes have affected the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables that are available to you.
New variations of plants have been developed to optimize yield per acre, growth rate and pest resistance. And more efficient use of fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation have further help increase crop yields. Crop production has transitioned from family farms to corporate farms. And, major distribution facilities have been created to deliver produce to markets.
Unfortunately, crop varieties have been optimized for yield, growth rate and pest resistance rather than for nutritional value. As a consequence the nutrient values for a wide variety of crops has declined. For example, for a sample of 43 different crops (from asparagus to watermelons) have shown declines in riboflavin of 38%, in ascorbic acid of 20% and in protein content of 6%.
Even among crops in various locations, nutrient values can vary widely. For example, for tomatoes, ascorbate levels have been found to vary 3-fold and phosphorous levels by 2-fold. And, ascorbate levels varies 2.6-fold in potatoes.
Conclusions You Can Use
While most people wait until they get sick to seek medical care, you can seek health through a proper diet and, likely, some supplements.
Consume more fruits and vegetables to help ensure you are getting as many micronutrients as possible.
To help ensure health, you should both eat to nourish you body and take supplements to ensure you are getting your RDA of all the micronutrients your body requires. This will probably include a multi-vitamin and a trace mineral supplement.
- Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999 as published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition
- We Can Do Better — Improving the Health of the American People as published in The New England Journal of Medicine
- DNA damage from micronutrient deficiencies is likely to be a major cause of cancer as published in Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
- Food Alone May Not Provide Sufficient Micronutrients for Preventing Deficiency as published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition