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IHCAN March 2017

The missing nutrients that are killing us – quickly

“Nutritional science has long overlooked the fact that most vitamins and minerals are required by dozens to hundreds of different enzymes within our cells. This means that the same nutrients we need to maintain our day-to-day health – such as vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium – are also critical components of enzymes required for our bodies’ long-term maintenance, in roles such as DNA repair, cardiovascular health and prevention of oxidative damage.

“As a consequence, Ames writes, when the body is faced with shortages of key nutrients, it must ‘ration’ them, enabling enzymes critical to our immediate survival and reproductive capacity to keep functioning at the expense of longer-term physiological needs”.

This is from our report on Prof Bruce Ames’ latest paper, in which he applies his “triage theory” to explain ageing (see page 6). Ames has identified more than 40 nutrients he says are under threat, and says that many play dual roles in both short-term survival and longevity. When a nutrient is in short supply, the body first makes sure it has enough for survival. The classic example he discovered was that mice with a simulated vitamin K deficiency were able to maintain essential blood clotting functions, but couldn’t protect themselves against heart disease.

One of the nutrients he flags is choline. Contributing editor Ben Brown is on the case there (see page 12). Choline, Ben tells us, is an absolutely vital methylator – and one that is almost always in short supply. The reason is a combination of a low dietary intake (eggs and liver being the main sources) and a proliferation of SNPs that increase our need for it.

It is staggering to find out that around 94% of men and 89% of women do NOT meet the recommended intakes. Even more surprising – until the 1990s, choline was not even recognised as a required nutrient for humans. “In fact, all of the textbooks said we could make our own and therefore we didn’t have to eat it”, says the world’s leading expert on choline Dr Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD.

A less-than-optimal intake of choline is now known to result in liver and muscle problems in adults, and abnormal brain development and birth defects in foetuses. UK health authorities are still fussing over folate; choline remains forgotten.

“While choline exhibits nutritional synergies with vitamins involved in folate metabolism and the methionine cycle, such as B6 and B12, and nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, none of these substances can functionally replace it. Deficiency in these complementary nutrients elevates the need for choline in the diet. Choline’s role in cell structure and function, phospholipid metabolism, cell signalling and epigenetic events are the basis of its contribution to the maintenance of cognitive, cardiovascular, and hepatic health”.

Functional medicine breaking through?

Congratulations to contributing editor Mike Ash and his team for the outstanding turnout for this year’s Institute for Functional Medicine’s London training: AFMCP UK (Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice) tempted in a record 200-odd GPs and medical professionals,
as well as the “usual” 100+ nutritional therapists and naturopaths. It looks like GPs are getting the message being consistently beamed at them by the likes of Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Dr Rupy Aujla and co. Great stuff!


Keep up with Simon on Twitter@simoncamedit

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