Dying for Lack of Sufficient Micronutrients

n a presentation at the “Understanding Aging—Biomedical and Bioengineering Approaches” conference held in June 2008 at the University of California, Los Angeles, the world-renowned research scientist Bruce N. Ames made a compelling case for the prevention of micronutrient inadequacy. Dr. Ames is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

While the terrain of his talk was familiar, Dr. Ames’s insights burrowed into the unacknowledged significance of adequate micronutrient supplementation. According to Ames, inadequacies in one or more micronutrients are widespread in the U.S. population and even greater around the world. Inadequacy is defined as being greater than two standard deviations below the Daily Value, for any of about 40 essential micronutrients (including minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acids) that are required for proper metabolism. As examples, Dr. Ames pointed out that 56% of all U.S. residents are thought to be deficient in magnesium, and almost all Americans of African descent are believed to be deficient in vitamin D.

Tragically, despite knowledge that these inadequacies exist, there is little societal concern about it. Why? Because evidence associating any specific micronutrient deficiency with overt pathology related to the diseases of aging has not been found.

Nevertheless, Dr. Ames claims that many relationships of this sort exist, and in his words, “the pathology is insidious.” Throughout the course of evolution, when a micronutrient was scarce in a given region—as was particularly true for the essential minerals, which are unevenly distributed across the planet—organisms compensated, via natural selection, for a rebalanced metabolism to ensure survival, albeit to the detriment of their longer-term metabolic needs.

Among the long-term consequences of micronutrient inadequacy are: DNA damage resulting in future cancers; adaptive immunity malfunction resulting in future severe infections; and mitochondrial decay (a special focus of Ames’s investigations) resulting in future neurodegenerative diseases, cognitive dysfunction, and accelerated aging.

On this last consequence, Ames is clear. Shortages of micronutrients lead to grave long-term costs, and death becomes a more prominent and likely card, to be played sooner than later.

Given that all the essential bases can be covered by taking a high-potency, multivitamin, multimineral multiantioxidant formulation and a few other key supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids (which Dr. Ames recommends), the solution to the micronutrient shortage is readily at hand. Taking these substances is a smart insurance policy indeed.

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