[Baltimore Sun] Dr. Eric Berg on nutritional deficiencies: How to ensure you get enough nutrition through diet and supplements

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Your diet, according to the National Institutes of Health, should only be sufficient to prevent starvation by maintaining body weight and preventing nutrient depletions severe enough to result in failure of specific bodily functions. Food, in other words, should be sufficient in both quantity and quality, only for survival. And because of that, the definition of “sufficient” has been based solely on amounts that would prevent outright deficiency diseases.

This definition has been accepted since “Recommended Dietary Allowances” was first published in 1943 during World War II. In spite of periodic updates, the definition of sufficient remains poorly defined and problematic. Even the list of essential nutrients remains incomplete. RDA, in other words, only sets a bare minimal level for nutrition.

Nevertheless, an understanding of that minimal RDA concept, even long before it was published, has saved many lives and managed much illness. Well-known examples of insufficiency diseases that have been successfully addressed include scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency now rarely seen; beriberi, a vitamin B1 deficiency once far more common; and pellagra, a niacin or tryptophan deficiency now easily correctable.

Enough is not enough

Survival, however, is simply not good enough. To go beyond survival and reach optimal levels of physical fitness and wellness and maximal health span and lifespan requires a deeper understanding and application of the science of nutrition.

Dr. Eric Berg, a nationally recognized leader in nutrition research, has devoted more than 25 years of his career to intensive investigation into what can be discovered beyond the RDA — nutrition to support the human potential for health far beyond the prevention of deficiency disorders and diseases.

The variables

One of the difficulties that can hamper getting sufficient and appropriate nutrition is the simple fact that whole, natural foods do not grow with ingredient labels attached. It can be hard to know if you are getting all of your required nutrients, specifically vitamins and minerals.

Among the other variables that Dr. Berg has identified is one impossible for the RDA to take into account. The kind and severity of stress you may be under from time to time is variable. That makes your nutrient need variable. Stresses might include anything from physical training with extreme exercise, to injuries, illness and advancing age.

Exercise will increase your need for nutrition of various kinds while illness, especially in the gut, might lower your ability to absorb certain nutrients. Achieving sufficient and proper nutrition, therefore, may offer a constantly variable opportunity to control your own health.

Nutrient-dense food choices

Foods are not all the same, states Dr. Eric Berg. Some are nutrient-dense, others are nutrient-poor, and many are in between. Some foods are also incomplete, lacking certain essential vitamins and minerals. Corn, for example — considered a dietary staple by many people — is missing the essential amino acids tryptophan, lysine and threonine. Among the 13 commonly accepted vitamins, for example, your body can only make vitamins D and K. All the rest are considered essential nutrients to be gained from your food. Nutrient-dense foods are those that provide all or most of those dietary essentials.

These include meats, especially liver and other organ meats. However, red meats should be organically grass-fed. Meat should also not be overcooked or heavily seared in skillets or over fire, processes that can create the unnatural toxins for which meat has been inappropriately blamed. Nevertheless, red meat should be eaten in moderation to prevent protein-induced insulin spikes.

Wild-caught fish, especially salmon and other fatty fish, and seafoods such as shellfish and other marine fish are also nutrient-dense and tend to be balanced if the water is unpolluted, because the sea itself is a remarkable solution of both the common and micronutrients necessary for life.

Foods like pasture-raised eggs and milk are distinct from their common commercial alternatives in that they contain a richer, broader spectrum of micronutrients and trace minerals and they are free of unnatural, sometimes toxic additives. Pasture-raised eggs are nutrient-dense because a natural balance of soil minerals can become part of the chicken’s feed.

Dark leafy green vegetables are nutrient dense, as well as beans, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower — all of which are rich sources of potassium — and especially freshly sprouted greens, most notably broccoli. Sprouting starts the seed’s vitamin- and protein-building biochemistry, vastly enriching the nutritional content far beyond that in the unsprouted seed. It also lowers the seed’s phytic acid content, a substance that blocks the bioavailability of certain key minerals.

Because the amount of these nutrients in every serving cannot be precisely known, and because your body’s needs and its ability to absorb them can vary with circumstances, Dr. Berg advises eating seven to 10 cups of vegetables every day. These may well exceed your RDA but eating less than that may leave you subclinically deficient — inadequately supplied for all but subsistence.

Nutritional supplements

Dr. Eric Berg, through years of research and practical application, has perfected a suite of nutritional supplements aimed at addressing specific metabolic needs and focused on compensating for certain deficiencies that may arise. He has developed specific nutritional supplements for improved sleep, stress reduction, estrogen balancing, hair loss, digestive and gallbladder disorders.

Among the many carefully formulated supplements, however, one that supplies the key essential vitamin nutrient called vitamin B12 is a special preparation of nutritional yeast. While the human body cannot produce vitamin B12, it is necessary for life. It can be found in foods of animal origin such as fish, liver, eggs and certain health-promoting yeasts. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause a life-threatening blood condition called pernicious anemia.

Nutritional yeast

For individuals on a Keto diet or for those who minimize animal products in their diet, nutritional yeast, taken as a supplement, can provide a natural source of the vitamin B12 and B-complex vitamins they need.

These nutrients are especially important for individuals on a Keto diet to support the metabolic adaptation from sugar-burning to fat-burning, to lower blood cholesterol levels as fat-burning releases it from the body’s fat stores and to generally support liver function.

Nutritional yeast is produced in the fermentation of molasses. The unique advantage of this process over using purified, white sugar as a fermentation substrate, according to Dr. Berg’s research, is that molasses is a concentrated source of the minerals that the sugar cane took from the soil. A nutrient-dense diet requires just such a rich source of trace minerals.

Dr. Berg also advises supplement shoppers to avoid yeast products created by fermentation of beet sugar, called brewer’s yeast. Most beets are genetically modified to tolerate the weed-killing herbicide glyphosate and may be contaminated with this toxin.

When buying nutritional yeast, Dr. Berg strongly advises supplement shoppers against buying “enriched” or “fortified” nutritional yeasts. These products have artificial B vitamins to boost their apparent food value. Such synthetic vitamins are not metabolized properly and can lead to toxicity.

In control

Understanding and applying these principles to ensure that you get enough nutrition through diet and supplements can get you well along the road to preventing more than nutritional deficiencies. Gaining the control you need could increase your health span and lifespan while allowing you to enjoy wellness far beyond those minimal RDA guidelines.

The news and editorial staffs of the Baltimore Sun had no role in this post’s preparation

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