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Is Your Body Crying Out for These Nutrients?

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We live in a time when stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, addiction, and other forms of “dis-ease” are so widespread they’ve become the norm rather than the exception. For the first time in nearly 25 years, life expectancy in the U.S. has decreased, which one expert described as a “uniquely American phenomenon,” compared to other developed countries. Deaths from heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and suicide are all up—and so is prescription drug use. According to the latest numbers, 59% of U.S. adults take at least one prescription drug.[1] [2] What gives? Could it be that all of these forms of disease are signs of nutrient deficiencies? Do we really need all of the drugs, or just a good dose of vital nutrients?

Vital Nutrients Your Health Depends On

A fat, a mineral, a vitamin, and a bacterium walk into a bar… it sounds like the beginning to a terrible joke, but the following little gang of nutrients, one from each of these categories, has huge impacts on our health and wellbeing—indeed, optimal health is not possible without them. They are also nutrients that most people are not getting enough of to support their best health.

  • 1

    Fish oil

    Want to begin with a good foundation?  Start with the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA found in fish oil, or algae oil if you are veggie or vegan; they are the healthiest of healthy fats. EPA and DHA are essential throughout the human lifespan, from fetal development to the golden years. These fats are important components of our cell membranes, keeping them healthy and fluid, and they produce potent anti-inflammatory compounds that play a major role in reducing inflammation in the body. DHA is especially concentrated in the brain, and research suggests that low levels of both EPA and DHA contribute to mood disorders. They have been shown to help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brain injury, depression, bi-polar disorder, post-partum depression, and anxiety.[3] [4] [5]

    Research published in the medical journal PLOS Medicine concluded that each year 84,000 deaths in the United States are attributable to low-dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake.[6] [7] Are you eating wild-caught salmon every day? Then you’re not getting optimal amounts of these health-promoting fats.

  • 2

    Magnesium

    Can a common mineral really be that important for health? Absolutely! Low magnesium levels have been associated with type-2 diabetes, hypertension, vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, muscle cramps, migraine headaches, PMS, depression and anxiety, and insomnia—and studies suggest that most of us are at least moderately deficient.[8] [9] [10] [11] Magnesium is required for more than 300 different biochemical processes in the body, including protein and DNA synthesis, muscle and nerve function, neurotransmitter activity, blood sugar control, and blood pressure regulation.[12] This mellowing mineral also promotes sleep and influences mental health, and has been shown to help in cases of depression, anxiety, and stress.[13] [14] According to the National Institutes of Health, “Habitually low intakes of magnesium induce changes in biochemical pathways that can increase the risk of illness over time.” The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is between 320 mg and 420 mg—a cup of spinach, one of the best food sources of magnesium, contains only 23.7 mg.[15] And that’s assuming that it was grown in healthy, mineral-rich soil, which these days is becoming harder to find.

  • 3

    Vitamin D

    Even though vitamin D has been in the spotlight over the past several years, sub-optimal levels, and even outright deficiencies, are still all too common.[16] [17]  A recent study provides a quick snapshot of the prevalence of deficiency: The study, released earlier this year, found that more than half of 214 college football players tested were deficient in vitamin D, while 86 percent had inadequate levels (below 31 ng/mL). The players with low levels had a significantly higher rate of muscle strain and injury.[18]  Adequate levels of vitamin D are important to maintain good muscle and bone health, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

    There are vitamin D receptors in every cell and tissue in our bodies and it influences more than 1,000 genes, turning them off or on as needed. Vitamin D plays a vital role in immunity, pain management, cancer prevention, cardiovascular health, blood sugar regulation, mental health, and cognition. A study published in February analyzed vitamin D levels in 26,916 people and found that low levels of the vitamin were associated with an increased risk of death from any cause.[19] It is difficult to improve or maintain health with insufficient levels of vitamin D. Studies indicate that levels between 60 and 80 ng/mL are needed to support optimal health, including reducing cancer risk.[20]

  • 4

    Probiotics

    The human microbiome and probiotics are the focus of some of the most fascinating research happening today. As it turns out, the “bugs” that populate our GI tracts heavily influence our health way beyond the gut. When they are happy and diverse, these bacteria protect us from pathogens and toxins; make neurotransmitters, certain vitamins, and anti-inflammatory compounds; support healthy detoxification; and impact how much we weigh, how our immune systems function, the state of our mental health, how we react to stress, and healthy insulin function and blood sugar balance.[21] They’re a big deal. The problem is that the Standard American Diet, antibiotic drugs, and anti-bacterial household and personal care products have waged a war on our friendly helping bacteria. And while probiotic-rich fermented foods have gained popularity lately, they are still not a daily fixture in most Americans’ diets. A daily probiotic supplement is an easy way to give those bugs some love, promoting their health and diversity. Keep them happy and they will keep you healthy!

    It’s a lot easier to maintain optimal health—mentally and physically—when your body is equipped with the right nutrients. But these days, many adults fall within an “inadequacy” range for various nutrients; they are not clinically deficient, but consistently fall below the recommended daily intake. If your health is suffering in any way, ask yourself: Is your body simply undernourished?

  • 5

    Lutein: A Nutrient for Our Modern Lives

    Lutein may not be at the top of your priority list, but it probably should be. If you spend your days working at a computer, looking at your smart phone or tablet, and watching TV, or are regularly exposed to fluorescent or LED lights, then lutein is for you. While there is a dizzying array of antioxidants in the world of nutrition, lutein, and its partner zeaxanthin, are unique in their importance to our eyes. These carotenoids make up the pigment that protects the macula—the part of the retina that allows us to see color and fine detail—from oxidative damage, inflammation, and vision-damaging UV light, especially blue light, an insidious problem for virtually everyone living in the modern world. The blue light from our electronic devices and fluorescent and LED lighting penetrates deep into the eye and its cumulative effect can damage the retina and macula, contributing to the development of macular degeneration, and ultimately, loss of vision.[22] According to James Stringham, PhD, a research scientist at the University of Georgia, the lutein found in the macula is the highest concentration of any nutrient that the body accumulates in any tissue,[23] a reflection of just how important this antioxidant is to our eyes. Research has shown that lutein supplements at a dose of 10 mg daily significantly increase macular pigment density.[24] [25] The average daily intake of dietary lutein among U.S. adults is estimated to be less than 2 mg a day.[26]

    Lutein is also the predominant carotenoid in the brain[27] and the thickness of the macula is directly related to cognitive function. Research has shown that high brain levels of lutein are consistently related to better cognition, verbal fluency, memory, and processing speed.[28] The mechanisms aren’t fully understood, but it is likely through lutein’s ability to suppress neuroinflammation, reduce oxidative damage, and enhance cell-to-cell communication in the brain.[29] [30] And as a bonus, lutein has also been shown to protect the skin from UV damage, making now the perfect time to begin taking this important nutrient.

References

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db267.htm

[2] Kantor E PhD, MPH, Rehm C, PhD, MPH, et al. “Trends in Prescription Drug Use Among Adults in the United States from 1999-2012.” JAMA. 2015;314(17):1818-1830.

[3] Dyerberg J MD & Passwater R PhD. The Missing Wellness Factors – EPA and DHA. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2012. Pg 34

[4] Challem Jack. “The Omega-Brain Connection,” Health Hotline, March 2017

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18247193

[6] Dyerberg J MD & Passwater R PhD. The Missing Wellness Factors – EPA and DHA. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2012. Pg 34

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19399161

[8] Rosanoff A, Weaver CM, Rude RK. “Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated?” Nutr Rev. 2012 March;70(3): 153-64  https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/70/3/153/1903971/Suboptimal-magnesium-status-in-the-United-States?redirectedFrom=fulltext

[9] Deans E, MD. “Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill,” Psychology Today, June 12, 2011. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201106/magnesium-and-the-brain-the-original-chill-pill

[10] Sartori SB, Whittle N, et al. “Magnesium deificiency induced anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment.” Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jan;62(1): 304-312

[11] Bartlik B MD, Bijlani V MD, Music D. “Magnesium: An Essential Supplement for Psychiatric Patients.” Psychiatry Advisor, July 22, 2014

[12] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

[13] Deans E, MD. “Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill,” Psychology Today, June 12, 2011. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201106/magnesium-and-the-brain-the-original-chill-pill

[14] Eby GA, Eby KL. “Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment.” Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(2):362-70

[15] http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2

[16] Lee J MD, O’Keefe J MD, et al. “Vitamin D Deficiency: An Important, Common, and Easily Treatable Cardiovascular Risk Factor?” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dec 2008;52(24):1949-1956

[17] Souberbielle JC. “Epidemiology of vitamin D deficiency.” Geriatrie et Psychologie Neuropsychiatrie du Vieillissement, 2016;14(1):7-15

[18] Vitamin D Council, “Research shows that college football players have a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency.” March 21, 2017 https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/research-shows-that-college-football-players-have-a-high-prevalence-of-vitamin-d-deficiency/

[19] Gaksch M, Jorde R, Grimnes G, et al. “Vitamin D and mortality: Individual participant data meta-analysis of standardized 25-hydroxyvitamin D in 26916 individuals from a European consortium.” PLOS One, Feb 16, 2017.  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0170791

[20] Garland CF, French CB, Baggerly LL, Heaney RP. “Vitamin D supplement doses and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the range associated with cancer prevention.” Anticancer Res. 2011 Feb; 31(2):607-11

[21] Clinthorne, J PhD. “The Power of Probiotics” training presentation, April, 2017

[22] Melton R, OD. “The Lowdown on Blue Light: Good vs. Bad, and Its Connection to AMD.” Review of Optometry, Feb 2014 https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/ce/the-lowdown-on-blue-light-good-vs-bad-and-its-connection-to-amd-109744

[23] Schultz H. “For research backing, carotenoids are king, eye health expert says.” NUTRAingredients-usa, April 14, 2017 http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Markets/For-research-backing-carotenoids-are-king-eye-health-expert-says

[24] Wolf-Schnurrbusch UE, Zinkernagel MS, et al. “Oral Lutein Supplementation Enhances Macular Pigment Density and Contrast Sensitivity but Not in Combination with Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids.” Invest Opthalmol Sci. 2015 Dec;56(13): 8069-74

[25] Weigert G, Kaya S, et al. “Effects of lutein supplementation on macular pigment optical density and visual acuity in patients with age-related macular degeneration.” Invest Opthalmol Vis Sci. 2011 Oct 17;52(11): 8174-8

[26] Alexander D, PhD, Emmick T, and Hutchison C. “Human Clinical Trials with Floraglo Lutein.” Kemin Industries, Inc., 2015

[27] Johnson E. “A possible role for lutein and zeaxanthin in cognitive function in the elderly.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(5): 1161S-1125S http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/96/5/1161S.long

[28] Feeney J, O’Leary N, et al. “Plasma Lutein and Zeaxanthin Are Associated With Better Cognitive Function Across Multiple Domains in a Large Population-Based Sample of Older Adults: Findings from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2017 Jan https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28329221

[29] Mohn E, Erdman J Jr., et al. “Differential Expression of Genes Involved in Inflammatory Immune Response and Protein Ubiquitination in the Prefrontal Cortex of Rhesus Macaque with High and Low Lutein Content.” The FASEB Journal. April 2016;30(1):supp 913.8

[30] Johnson E. “A possible role for lutein and zeaxanthin in cognitive function in the elderly.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(5): 1161S-1125S http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/96/5/1161S.long

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