We are often asked whether supplements are necessary, especially when someone is already following a varied and balanced diet. But even for the most health-conscious eaters, there are factors that are beyond our control that can have an effect on the amount of nutrient we get from our food and our ability to absorb them. We have teamed up with our friends at Vitl to help identify the key factors affecting our nutrient intake and what we can do to balance them.
Even the positive food choices that we are making may not be as beneficial as they once were owing to the depletion of nutrients in our food. Intensive, monocrop farming methods have drastically reduced the level of nutrients in our soil and thus in our foods. According to the Earth Summit Report (1992), this could be up to 85% over the last 100 years.
Smoking and alcohol
Studies have shown that smoking and alcohol consumption can also have a massive effect on the concentration of vitamins and minerals in the body. Vitamins C, E, and carotenoids in particular, are affected by smoking . Alcohol consumption can affect our nutrient levels too, reducing levels of folic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, zinc, and selenium.
Prolonged or very high levels of stress create greater physiological demands on the body, increasing its need for energy, oxygen, and circulation. This creates a greater need for vitamins, minerals, and nutritionally dense food. Stress not only requires higher levels of nutrients but also depletes levels of existing vitamins and minerals in the body, exacerbating deficiencies. The main nutrients affected are magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D and omega 3. Additionally, stress can cause imbalances in the gut, increasing the need for probiotics.
For those of us who live or work in a city, exposure to heavy pollution is unavoidable. Pollution has been recorded as preventing adequate sunlight penetrating the earth’s surface meaning we’re less able to produce vitamin D from sunlight exposure. Free radicals in the atmosphere, such as nitric oxides, sulfur dioxide, and ozone, are well-known oxidants and have been reported to induce organ and cellular damage and can deplete vitamin A and E stores.
The modern diet and lifestyle
Poor food choices and restrictive ways of eating, intensive farming methods and depleted soil, longer life expectancy, and an increasing reliance on medicine and antibiotics all contribute to a need to find adequate nutrients elsewhere, often in the form of nutritional supplements.
If we look back to the Stone Age – before processed food, farming, and medication as we know it today existed, it is likely that our paleolithic ancestors would have been getting everything they needed from their diet and active, outdoors lifestyles. Scientists have proposed that back in paleo times, humans would have been consuming on average between 3,000 and 4,000kcal a day, eating significantly larger quantities of food, resulting in a higher intake of vitamins and minerals.
Our indoors, sedentary lifestyles are the main reason why so many of us are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency. Here in the UK, over 90% of the country is too far from the equator for the sun rays to be strong enough to stimulate vitamin D production during the autumn, winter and spring months. In summer months, even on the days when we do manage to get a little sun, this exposure needs to be to our arms, legs, and torso, without sunscreen for at least 15 minutes and at midday. We may get enough vitamin D2 from the food we eat but vitamin D3, the type we mainly get from direct sun exposure, is present in very few foods, which is why Public Health England recommends that everyone in the UK takes a daily vitamin D supplement. Additionally, those with dark skin, sensitive skin, the elderly, people with obesity, and pregnant women all have an increased risk of deficiency.
Save 20%* on VITL vitamin D using code QURED – as vitamin D is a fat-soluble molecule, Vitl have added a little sunflower oil to maximise absorption and, unlike most other vitamin D supplements, theirs is vegan friendly!
*(expires 31.7.18, first-time customers only, one use per person)