Diseases linked to nutritional deficiency
Here are just a few of the diseases common in our culture, along with the nutritional deficiencies connected to them:
- Cardiovascular disease — Significant deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to peripheral artery disease, which usually precedes cardiovascular disease. Also, vitamins C, D, and E promote healthy endothelial function, which curbs the risk of heart disease. Coenzyme Q10 deficiencies cause cardiac problems as well.
- Osteoporosis — Long-term calcium deficiencies usually bring about problems in bone structure and strength. Most folks know about that connection. What's not as well-known is that vitamin D and magnesium are necessary for calcium to absorb properly in your body. If you have too little vitamin D in your body, you're at risk for osteoporosis.
- Prostate disease — Few people realize zinc is essential to a healthy prostate and to male reproductive and urinary health in general. Zinc supplementation has even been known to help men overcome erectile dysfunction.
- Underperforming thyroid (hypothyroidism) — Not nearly enough people get the 200 daily micrograms of iodine they need for general health. That dose is the bare minimum. Lack of iodine translates to millions of people feeling tired or cold, and has also been linked to breast cancer (see Issue #9). Long-term iodine deficiencies often turn into hypothyroidism.
These common deficiencies are just the tip of the iceberg. Genetic diseases and toxins in food or the environment are also major causes of disease, but aside from that I wouldn't be surprised if every chronic disease or illness can be traced to a nutritional deficiency.
Remember that diseases like cancer and diabetes are multi-causal: genes, toxins and nutritional deficiency all work together to make you sick. Of the three, nutritional deficiencies are the easiest to fix.
If you've never taken supplements before, prepare yourself for a startling surprise if you begin. The standard American diet (SAD) is so lacking in nutrients that millions of us — perhaps hundreds of millions — are walking around with headaches, body aches, digestive upset, skin problems, sinus problems, frequent colds and flu, and many other diseases that may quickly disappear when you start taking the basic vitamins and minerals.
To reap the most benefit from supplements, take them every day, long term. Do not treat them as drugs that you take when you're sick. A typical example is the person who starts taking vitamin C at the first sign of a cold. By then, it's a little bit late. Take vitamins every day of your life and there's a pretty good chance you won't get a cold, or it won't be as severe if you do get one.
Nutrition and cancer links
Now, let's take the nutrition/disease link one step further…
For starters, a higher magnesium intake appears to reduce the risk of colon cancer. This knowledge comes thanks to a recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition where a relationship between magnesium intake and colorectal cancer was demonstrated.
Then you've got the studies that indicate a higher vitamin D intake reduces the risk of breast, prostate, pancreatic, and colorectal cancer. Note: you can get vitamin D for free, because your body makes its own when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Of course, you can also get vitamin D through dietary supplements, and during the winter you may have to.
In fact, here's an interesting correlation. If you look at U.S. maps that show cancer mortality rates for prostate and breast cancer, you'll see mortality increase as you go farther north. People in Maine are more likely to come down with these two diseases than people in Georgia. It's almost certainly due to sun exposure, or the lack thereof.
Women who have higher levels of carotenoids circulating in their bloodstreams also seem to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, according to researchers from Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Beta carotene, the raw material from which the body makes vitamin A, is the best known carotenoid, but there are others. A diet of varied and colorful fruits and vegetables is the best way to benefit from a full range of carotenoids. In general, color — red, yellow, orange — is associated with nutrients.
And don’t leave out B vitamins. They are known to stimulate immune function, most especially fighter T cells.
Still, make sure you buy the good stuff
The way I see it, supplements are powerful tools when it comes to preventing or curing cancer. But that's simply because a healthy diet full of natural vitamins energizes your immune system. In turn, your immune system defeats cancer.
If you were to take cancer cells and put them in a healthy person with a fully functioning immune system, in most cases, the cancer will be killed off. This proves how essential immunity is to the body. Immunity is improved by nutrition. Nutrition is enhanced through supplementation.
This is exactly why doctors who understand the body's natural defenses tend to rally againstchemotherapy. It destroys your immune system -- your body's best shot at fighting off cancer in the first place.
I'll concede that some of the vitamins on the market are junk. You've got to be vigilant about what you buy and from whom. Just as you do when you buy produce, consider how the vitamins were manufactured.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge of regulating dietary supplements. They classify supplements as food, not drugs. This is a good thing. Contrast that with far too many drug approvals that are influenced by the money interests of pharmaceutical companies.
In fact, dietary supplements don't actually require FDA approval before entering the market unless they include a new ingredient that's never been marketed before. In that case, the FDA has to be notified before the supplement goes to market, and the notifying company has to provide information that proves the ingredient is safe.
Over the years, there have only been two or three times when a dietary supplement was deemed unsafe and pulled off the market (quite the opposite of the long list of disasters we've seen in prescription drugs). In each case, the charges were trumped up and the supplement was, in fact, safe and effective.
One of the banned supplements was ephedra, which was created to help with weight loss/energy. Ephedra was -- and is -- safe if taken properly. But it's a stimulant and, if abused, it can cause problems. The other case was tryptophan, a natural substance that occurs in turkey, milk and many other foods. One manufacturer shipped contaminated tryptophan, so the FDA banned the supplement completely for many years. Tryptophan itself is completely safe; the problem was the contaminant.
And that's it. Two cases of "bad" supplements, and they weren't even bad. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of people rush to an emergency room every year with a bad reaction to a prescription drug — and the press doesn't mind at all. So remember that next time you hear some journalist yammering about the dangers of supplements.
Forget all the high-tech machines and exotic chemicals you find in a hospital. Sometimes, your best bet for staying cancer-free comes from a tiny little vitamin.
Lee Euler, Publisher