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Dr. Colbert's Guide to Vitamins and Supplements: Be Empowered to Make Well-Informed Decisions

Dr. Colbert's Guide to Vitamins and Supplements: Be Empowered to Make Well-Informed Decisions

by Don Colbert

Learn More | Meet Don Colbert

Chapter 1

Your Nutritional Deficit

While many years have passed since its publication, the study is still cited by medical authorities and referenced worldwide. I refer to the 2002 publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association—one of the leading medical journals in the United States—of research that recommended all adults take a multivitamin supplement to help prevent chronic diseases. The findings shocked the medical community. During previous decades most of the medical establishment had insisted multivitamins were not necessary because people obtained all the vitamins and minerals they needed from their food. Some doctors theorized that multivitamins only gave people “expensive urine.”

But the authors’ findings went directly against this conventional wisdom and were based on hard data. Researchers reviewed studies of the relationships between vitamin intake and various diseases published between 1966 and 2002. They concluded that when people did not take in enough vitamins, they were at increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. The best course, said the authors, was for all adults to take nutritional supplements. While the study flabbergasted the medical community, the bias against multivitamins and supplements remains so strong that some doctors still won’t recommend them. They insist that multivitamin supplements, and most other supplements, are “alternative therapy” or should only be recommended for sick and elderly patients who are more vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies. Unfortunately these doctors don’t appreciate the extensiveness of vitamin deficiencies and the problems they create for people’s health.

Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K2
  • Calcium
  • Iron (in women)
  • Omega-3 Fats
  • Magnesium
  • Iodine
  • Choline
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12 (in elderly)

Why Diet Isn’t Enough

In a perfect world the human body would indeed get all the nutrients it needs from food. The vitamins and minerals our bodies need to thrive should come through the foods we eat. However, processed foods have been stripped of much of their nutrient content. Cooking and storage are also reasons why our food loses more nutrients. Our toxic environment and toxins in our food, water, and air, coupled with our overstressed lifestyles, have increased our nutrient requirements. Even if we were to eat adequate fruits and vegetables, the nutrient content in them has decreased due to our depleted soils.

Few—if any—people get the nutrients they need from food alone, even if they eat a healthy diet. That’s why a cornerstone of good health is nutritional supplements, since they will give you the nutrients you are likely missing from your normal diet. Those nutrients are the building blocks of health, and they will protect you against disease. Without them you are likely to have nutrient deficiencies.

It’s extremely difficult to get all the nutrition your body needs from diet alone. Admittedly I do have very few patients who are incredibly meticulous about their diets. They pay attention to everything they eat, keeping diet logs to monitor what they will eat and when. Some are vegetarians; many insist on eating only raw foods (fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds) or foods made and prepared according to healthy standards. They end up spending much of their time planning what to eat, shopping for food, and preparing their food. For a few, the time and energy it takes to plan can consume their lives.

God’s Cure for Depleted Soil

In biblical times God told His people to work the land for six years and during the seventh year to give the land a “Sabbath rest” (Lev. 25:1–7). In so doing, the soil had time to regenerate its nutrients.

As I have mentioned, a major reason diet alone is not enough is because today’s soil has fewer nutrients in it than ever before. When soil has fewer nutrients, so do the things that grow in it. Today’s soil has suffered massively at the hands of agribusiness giants that plant and harvest produce on a large scale, aiming not for nutritious crops, but for crops that look good and last a long time on store shelves. Unfortunately nutrition has been sacrificed along the way. Long gone are the days when farmers rotated crops or mulched their fields, all of which preserved minerals in the soil. Now agribusinesses overwork the fields and add back a narrow range of minerals instead of letting the land naturally regenerate its nutrients.

According to the 1992 Earth Summit, North America has the worst soil in the world—85 percent of vital minerals have been depleted from it. People noticed this trend as far back as 1936, when the U.S. Senate issued Document 264, which said that impoverished soil in the United States no longer provided plant foods with minerals needed for human nourishment.

Today modern farmers fertilize the soil with a limited number of nutrients—mainly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These three nutrients have been found to grow big, beautiful crops, but they are only a few of the dozens our bodies need to be healthy. Shiny apples or deep green lettuce bunches on grocery store shelves may look beautiful, but the beauty is only skin deep. They are usually poor in many nutrients because they were grown in depleted soil.

Many studies show how depleted soil has affected the mineral content of vegetables and fruits. One observer compared the data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) handbook from 1972 to the USDA food tables of today and found dramatic reductions in nutrient content. For example, nearly half the calcium and vitamin A in broccoli have disappeared. The vitamin A content in collard greens has fallen to nearly half its previous levels. Potassium dropped from 400 mg to 170 mg, and magnesium fell from 57 mg to only 9 mg. Cauliflower lost almost half of its vitamin C, thiamine, and riboflavin. The calcium in pineapple went from 17 mg to 7 mg. Those astonishing losses in nutrients eventually will have a significant impact on your health.

Acid rain is another culprit in soil degradation. Even a modest amount of acid rain causes soil to lose nutrients. One thirty-year study showed that acid rain steadily depleted the soils of the forest by 38 percent at one site in South Carolina and made the soil more acidic. Another that examined nutritional data for the second half of the twentieth century revealed declines in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and various vitamins for forty-three different vegetables and fruits. I believe the depletion of our soil is part of the curse God placed on the land after Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden. But I also believe that as we come under God’s grace, He has blessed us with the tools and the knowledge that will make our land—and our food—rich in nutrients again.

Good Grains—How They Rank

It’s almost impossible to rank grains because we need to consider all the different elements involved (size, soil, and so on). Each grain is different, with its own texture and taste. Each also has different nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins, and trace minerals, that refined grain products do not contain. Barley, oats, millet, rye, quinoa, and brown rice are some of the healthiest grains.

Poor Digestion

Another reason people need nutritional supplements is because of poor digestion. I will occasionally do a blood test to check intracellular nutrient levels for certain patients, and very often they are deficient in several nutrients, even if they eat a healthy diet and take supplements. This is because it’s not just what you eat but also what you assimilate and absorb into your body.

An estimated one hundred million Americans have some type of digestive disorder. This means that even if they put nutritious foods in their mouths, the nutrients may not be adequately absorbed by their bodies. One reason for poor digestion is lack of enzymes in the diet. Enzymes are essential to the body’s digestion, assimilation, and absorption of food. But many adults do not have enough enzymes that are essential for normal digestion. This could be for a number of reasons:

  1. They choose highly processed food that is void of enzymes.
  2. They do not properly chew their food properly, making it difficult for enzymes to break down the food. Each bite should be chewed thirty times.
  3. They cook food at high temperatures, destroying the enzymes in the food.
  4. They consume excessive amounts of fluids with their meals, which washes out their enzymes and hydrochloric acid.

Also, as we grow older, our capacity to make enzymes diminishes. Stress also hinders digestive enzymes from being produced.

Quick Quiz

Most digestion takes place in the:
    A. Stomach
    B. Small intestine
    C. Large intestine

Answer: B. Small intestine.

Many people, especially individuals over fifty years of age, have low levels of hydrochloric acid, which is needed for proper digestion. In addition, millions of Americans are consuming antacids and medications that block acid, such as Pepcid, Mylanta, Zantac 75, Prilosec, Nexium, and other medications that reduce hydrochloric acid. Other people have poor digestion because they are stressed or are on birth control pills or other medications that affect how well vitamins are absorbed. Each of these may contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Also almost every medication causes a loss of vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants.

The bottom line is that to be healthy you almost certainly need to start taking nutritional supplements. Consult your physician before beginning any supplements. I will review which ones to take, and in what quantities, in part 2. In the remainder of part 1, though, I will review what the lack of nutrients is doing to us, such as the toxins we face (including stress), and how metabolism affects weight.

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