Hidden Hunger Part 4

elephantAs I said in Part Three, the form and dose of micronutrient supplementation is of crucial importance. Many health professionals believe that different forms of vitamins and minerals are the same, but isolates and food nutrients:

  • Have different structures
  • Use different metabolic pathways
  • Function differently in the body.

Iron is an important mineral and deficiency is widespread. It has become commonplace to fortify maize and wheat flour with electrolytic iron. This is certain to fail because the form of iron used has a bioavailability of less than 1% and phytates in maize further reduce this. Those ‘experts’ who recommend this also recommend the addition of inorganic zinc, which competes with the iron for absorption and compounds the problem. Is it any wonder that the maize and wheat flour fortification programme in South Africa has been a failure?

Did you know that an elephant gets only 50mg of calcium per day from its diet? This is sufficient to maintain the largest land based mammalian skeleton. It has been shown that 30mg of calcium rich yeast is better absorbed than 300mg of calcium carbonate. The former goes to bone where it is needed, the latter to kidney where it is excreted. The moral – we are not designed to eat chalk! Perhaps someone should tell the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession?

Let’s look at Selenium. This is an essential trace element, required for an extensive range of biochemical functions within the body. These functions are mediated by some 20 selenoproteins, such as glutathione peroxidase (GPx), that play a key role in antioxidant systems, thyroid hormone metabolism, immune function and reproduction.

Selenium deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of certain chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, inflammatory diseases, infertility and infections. Where there is deficiency, it has become commonplace to fortify bread or salt with sodium selenate or selenite. But this is unlikely to have the desired benefit because these salts are toxic, poorly absorbed, and the little that is absorbed does not act as an antioxidant. It is a mad world that bans mineral water that is contaminated with sodium selenite – an industrial pollutant – and then puts it in the bread! Selenomethionine is better absorbed and has some antioxidant properties. In contrast, selenium rich yeast is non-toxic, well absorbed and has powerful antioxidant properties. One would expect this as yeast is a natural food and the selenium in it is complexed with natural carrier proteins.

Understanding the relationship between how nutrients are absorbed into the body and in what form should be the initial step we take in fighting against malnutrition. Filling bellies with the wrong food and with chemical isolates may look good on paper, but has little effect on solving the problems of hidden hunger.

Dr Geoff Douglas

CEO – Health Empowerment Through Nutrition

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