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In 1936, the Department of Agriculture wrote the first report on mineral deficiencies. It stated virtually all soils and 99% of people in the US were mineral deficient!
The situation hasn’t gotten any better. With the start of pesticides and fertilizers in the 1940s, a 2001 report in the Journal of Complementary Medicine showed that from 1940 to 1991, trace minerals in fruits and vegetables declined by up to 76%.
Today mineral deficiencies in the soil challenge farmers to produce mineral- and nutrient-rich foods for both human and livestock consumption, resulting in a growing number of micronutrient deficiencies worldwide.4
Do I Need a Multivitamin?
It is hard to argue the need for high-quality mineral support in our diet, but does that mean we need vitamin supplements as well? Research on the need for vitamin and mineral supplements is mixed.
The results of large-scale randomized trials in the past two decades have shown that for the majority of the population, multi-vitamin-mineral supplements are not only ineffective, but they may be deleterious to health.1
Another study suggests that 31% of the US population is at risk of at least one vitamin or mineral deficiency.3 The study goes on to suggest that those who did not use dietary supplementation had the highest risk of any deficiency (40%), compared to users of full-spectrum multivitamin-multimineral supplements.14
Individuals consuming an adequate diet based on the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) had a lower risk of any deficiency (16%) than those with an inadequate diet (57%), which is the general consensus of most studies. If you eat well, the risk of mineral or vitamin deficiency is greatly reduced.3
This supports the notion that vitamins and most minerals are available in the foods we eat, assuming we eat well and can digest effectively. For example, we have not heard that there is a lack of vitamin C in oranges or that the sun is not delivering enough UVB rays to help us make vitamin D3.
Our lifestyle of not being outdoors and not eating enough fruits and vegetables is a major factor linked to most vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Do I Need a Multimineral?
In my practice, I suggest getting most of our nutrients from food and screening for certain deficiencies with blood tests. Because soils are so mineral-depleted, I do suggest baseline mineral supplementation, as they are the drivers of our energy, vitamin function, and metabolism.
It’s hard to overestimate the effect of chronic mineral deficiencies. Two-time Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling stated, “You can trace every sickness, every disease, and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.”5
The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), can be found in nuts, seeds, sunlight, and green and colorful vegetables.6
About 75% of the US population (ages ≥1 year) do not consume the recommended intake of fruit, and more than 80% do not consume the recommended intake of vegetables.6
See also 6 Keys to a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
There are 13 essential vitamins that we must get from outside the body. They are vitamins A, D, E, and K (the fat-soluble ones), vitamin C, and the eight B vitamins. They all play vital roles, such as:
- Supporting immunity
- Keeping cells healthy
- Converting food to energy
- Daily maintenance + repair
Interestingly, vitamins need minerals to function optimally, which may be why they are often in the same pill. While a balanced diet will deliver all the vitamins we need, there are a couple of common vitamin deficiencies to be aware of.
Common Vitamin Deficiencies
- Vitamin D3, which we get from the sun, is a common deficiency in the West due to many factors, such as sunscreens, time spent in offices, and a basic avoidance of the sun. Living in the northern hemisphere, it is tricky to get enough vitamin D in winter without a supplement.
- Vitamin B12 is another common deficiency, most commonly due to digestive weakness in ability to absorb B12. This can typically be remedied through diet and restoring optimal digestive function.
The other 11 essential vitamins are readily available with a healthy and mostly plant-based balanced diet of organic whole foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Animal protein is suggested to stay at about 10% of the total diet.
Are Your Multivitamins Absorbing?
One other problem with most multivitamin and mineral supplements is that the minerals have extremely poor absorption rates, and in some cases, toxic forms of minerals are used. The vitamins are almost always synthetic and not derived from whole foods. Microbes, which make up 90% of each of us, will not recognize synthetic vitamins.
Today, there are a handful of vitamin supplements made from whole foods, which are a great resource if your diet is poor and digestion is weak. The downside of many whole food vitamins is that you have to swallow many large tablets to meet their suggested daily dose.
I recommend my patients eat a balanced diet rich in whole foods and only take vitamin supplements for short periods to reboot vitality. Perhaps some extra vitamin C if you are not getting enough vegetables and citrus fruits in winter or some extra B vitamins if you are under extreme stress is a good idea. But taking high quantities of vitamin supplements every day, in my opinion, can be overkill and may do more harm than good when the dosages combine and stack with other supplements, putting you are a risk for too many vitamins.
What does a healthy and balanced diet look like to get these needed vitamins?
A Healthy Organic Plate
- 1/2-2/3 plate: veggies and some fruit
- 1/6-1/4 plate: protein
- 1/6-1/4 plate: starch
I do recommend a small dose of a highly absorbable low-RDA mineral supplement to support the fact that even organic foods are low in trace and essential minerals.
Minerals are responsible for thousands of biochemical processes in the body. Many minerals work synergistically, so a deficiency in just one mineral can have a devastating impact.
Magnesium, for example, is involved in over 300 chemical processes that activate enzymes. It is also integral in the production of ATP, or energy. Zinc is a cofactor in over 70 enzymatic processes and is responsible for skin, immunity, growth, and musculoskeletal issues, as well as tissue repair.7
How to Find The Best Minerals
I have studied mineral absorption rates for years, always trying to find the best. Rarely will a company publish absorption rates—I can only assume this is because they are so low.
Most commercial mineral supplements absorb at a rate of only 10-15% and a few reach 25%.
Albion Laboratories, which manufactures LifeSpa Essential Minerals, has over 100 patents on mineral amino acid chelates and has an absorption rate of 32%, which is very high.2
It is a very low RDA because the absorption is so high. I suggest an extremely low dose for baseline mineral and trace mineral support.
Essential Minerals: Take 3 per day for one month, and see if you feel boosted energy. If so, slowly wean back to a baseline of 1 per day or every three days thereafter while maintaining your energy levels.
How Our Minerals Absorb
To make transport of minerals from digestion to bloodstream easier, Albion binds minerals to a protein amino acid (glycine) to ready the mineral for easy absorption. In this way, the mineral is absorbed just like any other protein.
In fact, this is what happens during the digestive process: protein amino acids attach or chelate to food-based minerals. In this chelated form, they naturally and efficiently absorb into the bloodstream.
Iron Deficiency is the number one deficiency in the world.