At Evolution Rehab, one of the defining missions that we try to impress onto our patients is upon the education and understanding of the fundamental principles for sustainable, practical and healthy lifestyles within modern living.
We provide this foundation for healthy living through a baseline understanding and balance of the five key health factors which can determine our health. The five health factors being:
– Movement Health
– Nutritional Health
– Chemical Health
– Sleep Hygiene
– Psychological and Emotional Health
Whenever people ask me for any recommendations as with regards to healthy living, one of the most common questions I get asked is whether I recommend for people to take any sort of nutritional supplements and also which type of nutritional supplements would I recommend. To understand the rationalisation of the answer that I provide to the patients that I see at my clinic, it may be helpful for you to gain a brief insight into some of the reading and research that I undertook during the infancy of my studies into nutritional and functional medicine.
Investigations into soil nutrient deficiencies
My personal journey into clinical nutrition and functional medicine started around fifteen years ago. During that period of initial education, I undertook a lot of due diligence on the need for nutritional supplementation. One of the first questions which I asked myself, which I am sure reflect the words of many of you who are reading this article today was simply, “Is there a need to take any sort of vitamin/mineral supplement? If someone had a good healthy diet with lots of vegetables and fruit, would that person not ingest all the vitamins/minerals that they would need to live a healthy life?”
As I delved deeper into the topic of food nutrient content within modern agricultural farming, some very interesting and concerning realisations started to become apparent.
What had been uncovered was that as far back as the 1950s, research had been undertaken on soil nutrient content around the world. The variety of testing undertaken was upon the measurement of the levels of different minerals within agricultural soil around the world. Minerals which healthy plant and crop growth are dependant upon. Over the years, systematic research into soil nutrient measurement levels have shown a concerning trend of gradually reducing mineral content in arable land around the world. The result of this is being reflected within a heavily reduced content of vitamins, minerals, protein and phytonutrients within the fruits and vegetables that we buy from our stores today. There have been studies from the start of the century where trends of soil nutrient deficiencies in farming land have even been found within tropical countries such as Papua New Guinea and Malaysia.
There are a whole bunch of reasons for why this trend has been happening and can be quite easily summarised by a statement provided within a 2004 American agricultural study undertaken by Davis et al. (2004 Dec;23(6):669-82, Journal of the American College of Nutrition):
“Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.”
Some recent agricultural studies have shown that the nutrient content of modern mass farmed fruit and vegetables have a micronutrient and protein content of less than 50% in comparison to measurements taken from the same foods 50 years ago! The reality of reduced micronutrient and macronutrient content within our fruit and vegetables leaves us playing a little bit of a lottery as to knowing whether the foods which we eat are really providing us with the level of both macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to help us thrive and function optimally.
Low fat diet fads of the 80s
During the 1960s, there was a growing concern of the impact that both levels of obesity and cardiovascular related diseases were on the rise. Interventions on an institutional level were implemented to stop this growing trend. The initial conclusion from a variety of very weak scientific studies at the time lead us to believe that the consumption of high levels of fat in our diet was responsible for the growing levels of obesity and increasing heart disease within western society. Due to a variety of factors including political and commercial, the conclusion that consuming fat within our diet was bad for us and that comsuming a diet which is low in dietary fats was good for our health was heavily promoted by institutions such as the American Heart Association and this recommendation was swiftly followed by other worldwide health institutions. It was also concluded that the high consumption of dietary fats were responsible for growing levels of cholesterol in our blood and to address both obesity and the levels of cholesterol in our blood, there was a necessity to considerably reduce the consumption of all types of fat from our diets. The recommendation from governments around the world was to considerably reduce eating dietary fats, particularly fats derived from animal meats and animal produce such as butter. The uptake from the food industry was rapid and suddenly the explosion of low fat foods were born.
The shocking cost of the low fat food explosion was that for many of the low fat foods that we bought from the supermarkets, the fat was replaced with high levels of sugar, carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavourings and salt in order to ensure palatability of the goods that we bought.
Research from nutritional science is now starting to show that the low fat diet recommendations were really quite wrong and that the consumption of many dietary fats are actually very important for your health! For example, the recommendations for not eating dietary cholesterol has now been reversed and has been proven that it is very safe to consume cholesterol within your diet and that doing so does not put your health at risk………..”Yeah for egg yolks again!!!!!”
Unfortunately, sixty years on, we are unfortunately only starting to see the medical consequences of the low fat dietary recommendations which had been previously implemented. In the UK alone, we are suffering from an obesity epidemic and an explosion of chronic metabolic diseases such as diabetes! In only the last 8 years, the number of people who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes increased from 2.5 million to 3.5 million. Placing a strain of approximately £10 billion pounds on the National Health service every year.
In light of the original studies and conclusions made within the 1960s, further research into dietary fats, obesity and the mechanisms of elevated blood serum levels of cholesterol have provided us with a clearer understanding that not all dietary fats are created equally. In fact, research over the last 60 years has shown that in terms of our diets, it is our over consumption of processed sugar and processed foods which has played a large role for the epidemic of chronic metabolic diseases in western society today.
On top of that, the previous vilification of dietary fats has resulted in an imbalance of the consumption of particular essential macronutients. One of those nutrients being Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are a group of fats that the body is unable to create by itself and we are required to consume through our diet. There are 3 categories of essential fatty acids; Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. Not only is the consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids important for our health but it is the balance and ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids which is crucial to a proper functioning body. Two of the main consequences between having a heavy imbalance between the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 essential fatty acids results in heightened states of inflammation in our bodies and the inability for the cell walls of all of the tissues in our bodies to effectively heal damage caused from free radicals.
The importance of rebalancing the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids has been shown within many studies over the last 15-20 years. Various studies have shown that increases with the levels of Omega 3 to Omega 6 in our blood in the long term has lead to strong research indications for reduction of the risk of heart disease, diabetes, alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression and metabolic syndrome.
Some simple recommendations for health
So in light of reducing nutrient content within our foods and the importance of Omega 3 fatty acids, the basic supplement recommendations that I subscribe for anyone who asks is that it is important to take a “Good Quality” multivitamin and a “Good Quality” fish oil. I emphasise the phrase good quality as taking a poor quality version of either of the following supplement recommendations could go as far as do the opposite to the intentions of why you are takings them in the first place! I like to call these basic supplement recommendations health insurance because alongside a healthy well balanced diet which consists a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, they help to ensure that you receive all of the basic nutrients needed for your body to not just work at a basic level but to function at the optimal level that it was designed for.
Please feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are curious with any questions you may have or if you wish to find out more about any of the health interventions that we provide here at Evolution Rehab.