Most of us are aware of the importance of macronutrients–proteins, carbohydrates and fats–that are a necessary part of a healthy diet, so perhaps we should start with identifying essential micronutrients. The 27 essential micronutrients that our bodies require include vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), B12 (cyanocobalamin), C, D, E, K, plus choline, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, iodine, potassium, magnesium, manganese, molybedenum, sodium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. According to the National Institutes of Health, research has shown that micronutrient deficiency is scientifically linked to a higher risk of obesity and chronic and debilitating diseases.
Day after day, we see, hear or receive negative information about dietary supplements, mostly suggesting that they are unnecessary when we follow a healthy diet and sometimes even going so far as to suggest that vitamin and mineral supplementation may be more harmful than helpful. Yet, according to a study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, four popular diet plans, including the medically based DASH diet, the low fat South Beach Diet, the low carb Atkins diet, and the Mediterranean style Best Life diet, did not meet 100% sufficiency by Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) guidelines for each of the 27 micronutrients, even though many consider the RDI recommendations to be just high enough to prevent deficiencies, but not necessarily enough to support optimal health.
Centering on these 4 diet plans, researchers set out to determine the nutritional content of three days of suggested daily meals for each plan to see if, when followed as directed, the diet would deliver 100% of the RDI of the 27 essential nutrients. Every meal ingredient from each plan was evaluated separately for micronutrient content and calories, averaging 15 meals and 75 ingredients. If the meal did meet 100% of the RDI, the calorie content was uniformly increased, using whole food only, until the nutrient level was achieved for each of the essential nutrients. The study determined that an average caloric intake of 27,575 (give or take 4660) would be required to achieve sufficiency in all 27 micronutrients!
Six micronutrients that were determined to be consistently low or non-existent were vitamin B7, vitamin D, vitamin E, chromium, iodine and molybedenum. Even when these were removed from the equation, additional analysis determined that an average consumption of 3475 calories would be necessary to reach 100% sufficiency in the remaining 21 micronutrients. Further, it was determined that the low carb diet delivered 100% sufficiency for 12 of the 27 essential nutrients and contained 1,786 calories, the Mediterranean style diet delivered 100% RDI for 15 of the 27 nutrients in 1,793 calories, the medically based diet delivered 100% sufficiency for 14 of 27 nutrients in 2,217 calories and the low fat diet delivered 100% of only 6 of 27 nutrients in 1,197 calories.
Overall, the sufficiency level averaged 43.5% and 1,748 calories. In conclusion, if it takes an unrealistic average of over 27,000 calories to become 100% sufficient in all the 27 essential vitamins and minerals when following a healthy diet, there must be an increased likelihood of deficiency in those who follow a standard American diet. Micronutrient deficiency has been shown to increase the likelihood of obesity by 80% and is scientifically linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive decline, stroke and osteoporosis.
The researchers concluded that “following a healthy, balanced diet cannot consistently deliver all the essential vitamins and minerals through whole food alone and that supplementation should be considered as a viable, low cost method to achieve micronutrient sufficiency and reduce the risks for some of today’s most prevalent and devastating health conditions and diseases.” The study recommended that all individuals would benefit from and should take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement to fill any nutritional gaps and achieve micronutrient sufficiency, even when following a whole food diet. Good health and vitality is so much more than just the absence of disease. Take your multis!
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Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. Jayson B. Calton. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2905334/
Average American diet deficient in key nutrients. http://www.naturalnews.com/033719_American_diet_nutritional_deficiencies.html
Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/pdf/exesummary_web_032612.pdf
Prevalence on micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. http://www.jissn.com/content/7/1/24