The Role of Micronutrients in Prevention and Therapy

A remarkable shift in nutritional research has occurred in the past 50 years. In the first half of the 20th century, nutritional science focused on the discovery of vitamins and description of classic vitamin and mineral deficiency diseases, such as scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) and rickets (vitamin D deficiency). Widespread efforts were then made to fortify the food supply to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Grains were enriched with B vitamins and iron, salt was iodized, water was fluoridated, and milk and margarine were fortified with vitamins A and D. These measures have essentially eliminated many previously common disorders, including pellagra, beri beri, and rickets. However, vitamin and mineral deficiencies remain widespread. For example, there is a high prevalence of inadequate intakes of iron and folic acid among women12, and deficiencies of vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium are common among older adults.3 4 Preventive nutrition must continue to emphasize the importance of a healthy and varied diet.

Today nutrition is moving into exciting new areas of prevention and medical therapy, particularly with regard to micronutrients. The term "micronutrients" refers to the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, and essential fatty acids found in our diets, normally in only very small amounts (milligram or microgram levels). Modern medicine is discovering that with optimum "micronutrition" illnesses can be treated, and in many cases prevented, without relying on more costly (and potentially more dangerous) drugs and surgery. This new paradigm began with the work of pioneering biochemists in the 1960s, led by Dr. Linus Pauling, twice winner of the Nobel Prize. Pauling realized that many micronutrients have significant and far-

reaching health effects beyond simple prevention of the classic deficiency diseases. He realized that many chronic illnesses occur when micronutrient deficiencies or imbalances cripple the body's biochemistry and metabolism.5 Although initially Pauling's ideas met with skepticism within the scientific community, time and the progress of scientific research have shown the value of his basic principles. Correcting deficiencies and imbalances by providing the missing nu-trients-often at levels greater than those normally found in the diet-has proved to be a powerful new therapeutic approach.6-8 Pauling termed this new medicine "orthomolecu-lar medicine," which he defined as

"...the preservation of good health and the treatment of disease by varying the concentrations in the human body of substances that are normally present in the body and are required for health.5"

Approximately 45 essential micronutrients are necessary for life and must be supplied by the diet because they cannot be synthesized in the human body. Why are these substances so critical for health? Micronutrients are basic components of every cell in the body. They serve as chemical messengers, building blocks, and enzymes. For tissues to function efficiently all of them need to be present in the right amount, in the right place, and at the right time. Micronutrients are constantly being metabolized, broken down, and excreted and need to be quickly replaced. Because most are not stored in the body in large amounts, regular daily intake is important to maintain tissue levels. An erratic supply weakens cells and forces them to "limp along", thus increasing vulnerability to disease.

Dieting Dilemma and Skinny Solutions

Dieting Dilemma and Skinny Solutions

The captivating thing about diets is that you don't get what is researched or predicted or calculated but rather, you get precisely what you expect. If the diet resonates with you then it will likely work, if it doesn't resonate, it won't.

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