The Importance of Broad-Spectrum Micronutrients




Why is our diet and broad-spectrum micronutrient supplementation critical for Optimal Physical/ Mental and Emotional Health?

Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids) are fundamental for good physical and mental health in youth and adults. They play a role in virtually every biologic, chemical and physiologic process, so micronutrient deficiencies have broad effects throughout the body and brain and determine the state of our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

The brain weighs only about 2 pounds and uses up to 20–50 % of the nutrients we eat daily. When the brain and body doesn't receive the daily nutrients it requires it can lead to a variety of symptoms that include cognitive dysfunction, inability to think clearly, mood issues, and more.

Nutrient-Dependent Brain Functions

Synthesis of neurotransmitters
Many neurotransmitters require micronutrient cofactors in their synthesis. Iron and copper have roles in serotonin and dopamine synthesis. Thiamine serves as a coenzyme in acetylcholine, GABA and glutamate synthesis. Vitamin B6 deficiency has been shown to reduce brain production of serotonin and GABA.
Regulation of neurotransmission
Micronutrients play key roles in regulating neuronal transmission. Zinc is extensively involved in synaptic transmission, both excitatory and inhibitory. Zinc, magnesium and copper are important modulators of NMDA-receptor activity, which has been implicated in the pathogenesis of mood disorders.
Hundreds of methylation reactions occur in the body, including during DNA, RNA and neurotransmitter syntheses. The neuropsychiatric effects of folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies result from a defective methylation process. Folate or folic acid is a precursor to S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), a methyl donor that has been shown to have anti-depressant properties. Choline is also a major source of methyl groups for methylation reactions, along with L-Methionine.
Prevention of genetic damage
Deficiency of folic acid, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, or zinc (one or more of which is seen in half the US population) have been show to mimic radiation in causing single and double strand DNA breaks, which could decrease enzyme affinity for nutrient cofactors. In addition, various vitamin and mineral deficiencies have been shown to accelerate mitochondrial decay, leading to DNA damage.
Gene expression
Various micronutrients are involved in gene expression. Gene expression is the process by which information from a gene is used in the synthesis of a functional gene product. Folate plays an essential role in methylation, which is involved in gene expression, transcription, chromatin structure, genomic repair and genomic stability. Vitamin D, zinc, calcium have been shown to be involved in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene expression. TrkB, a BDNF- activated receptor, has been shown to be activated by zinc and copper.
Neurite outgrowth
Several micronutrients have been shown to be involved in neurite outgrowth, which is critical in optimizing neural networks. This can improve learning and cognitive abilities. Vitamin A is a precursor to retinoic acid, which is extensively involved in neurite outgrowth and axonal elongation. Calcium plays critical roles in neurite outgrowth. Magnesium, selenium, and copper are also involved.

Nutrient Requirements for Individuals

Nutrient requirements of an individual continuously change, even though the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) set fixed goals for nutrient intake. This can create the illusion that we are getting enough nutrients to maintain optimal physical and mental health.

There are a variety of factors that can determine changes in the amount of nutrients an individual requires on a daily basis and these are listed below.

1. The Gut – Brain Connection

We have more than one nervous system – the central nervous system, which is made up of our brain and spinal cord, and the enteric nervous system, which comprises the nerve tissue in the gut. This is sometimes referred to as the "second brain."

These two nervous systems are connected through the vagus nerve, which travels from the brain to the abdomen, and sends feedback information to the brain, from the gut, and back again in a bi-directional loop. This nerve connects the two brains together and has a profound influence on our mental health. When we have an imbalance in the gut this connection can be disrupted.

We share our life with about 100 trillion organisms that comprise what is called our microbiome. It is made up of good and bad bacteria, fungi and viruses, called microbiota, that help us to perform life-sustaining functions. They inhabit everything from our skin and genitals to our intestines. In the gut these clusters of microbiota are known as the "gut flora".

Our gut flora is fundamental to the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Without it the majority of our food would not only be indigestible, but we would not be capable of extracting the critical nutritional compounds (vitamins and minerals) needed to function.

Antibiotics, refined sugar, NSAIDs, medications, medical illnesses, processed foods, chronic emotional stress, and pesticides can contribute to a decrease in gut flora.

2. Environmental Factors

Environmental factors influencing nutrient supply include the micronutrient content of soil. The more nutrient rich the soil is the higher the nutrition value of foods grown from it. In developed countries there is a substantial depletion of many essential micronutrients in crops, caused by modern agricultural methods. These methods fail to resupply the trace minerals and vitamins that are essential in the human diet. Another factor is the use of herbicides, which often contain glyphosates that bind certain minerals and reduce their bioavailability in the soil.

Sun exposure is critical for Vitamin D synthesis, so indoor work; lack of outdoor recreation, illness, and bedridden status will reduce synthesis and increase the need for dietary supplementation.

Cultural factors affecting nutrient supply include cooking methods, cuisine, and local food patterns. For example vegetarians are advised to take oral micronutrient supplementation. Inadequate food intake whether due to poverty or dieting will also alter the micronutrient status of an individual. Alcohol and recreational drugs, as well as processed foods and sugar with low nutrient density will reduce nutrient absorption.

One of the most important of all factors affecting micronutrient requirements in an individual is genetics (including epigenetics). An individual's genetic polymorphisms affect genetic differences in all aspects of physiologic function. This factor is called biochemical individuality in some nutritional circles and is a critical factor governing the micronutrient requirements of an individual.

3. Pregnancy and Lactation

A woman's nutrient requirements increase substantially during pregnancy. This is to ensure that the fetus gets an adequate supply. or e.g.: folic acid is important because it can help prevent birth defects. Iron is used to make more blood to supply oxygen to the baby. Choline is a critical nutrient during pregnancy and breastfeeding for neurocognitive development. Iodine is required for a healthy brain and nervous system in the fetus, as well as the production of thyroid hormones for both mother and baby.