Nutrients and You

The importance of micronutrients in energy metabolism and wellbeing

Dietary energy sources, such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, require several micronutrients in order to transform into cellular energy. When the required micronutrient levels are not met, a person’s physical well-being and cerebral capacity can be greatly affected.

Lack of micronutrients may impair cellular energy production, resulting in symptoms of tiredness lack of energy, headache, weakened immunity, and other generalized symptoms unexplained and undetected by standard laboratory tests.

Stages in the development of micronutrient deficiency

Micronutrient deficiencies develop progressively through several sub-clinical stages long before the clinical symptoms appear. They occur as a result of insufficient micronutrient intake, poor diet, malabsorption, and abnormal metabolism, which in turn can affect general health, physiological and cognitive functions, and increase susceptibility to infections.

Majority of cases fall into the first three sub-clinical stages where micronutrient deficiencies can unknowingly take effect unless proper intracellular diagnosis is applied. These early stages are when deficiencies are best addressed through lifestyle adjustments, proper food intake, and vitamin-mineral supplementation, while the effects are still reversible.

The sub-clinical stages of marginal micronutrient deficiency

Stage Aetiology Evidence
1. Depletion of vitamin stores (more rapid for water-soluble than for fat-soluble vitamins). Measurement of vitamin/mineral levels in the blood or tissues.
2. Non-specific biochemical adaptation. Decreased excretion of metabolites in the urine.
3. Secretion of micronutrient-dependent enzymes or hormones reduced. First physical signs; lack of energy, malaise, loss of appetite, insomnia.
4. Reversible impairment of metabolic pathways and cellular function. Morphological, metabolic or functional disturbances.
5. Irreversible tissue damage. Clinical signs of micronutrient deficiency.

Ideally, a sufficient and balanced diet should cover the overall micronutrient requirements. Insufficient intake caused by weight-reducing diets, insufficient or imbalanced nutrition, eating disorders, extensive exercise, or emotional stress can put many people at risk of inadequate micronutrient status.

Marginal deficiencies in high-risk groups

High-risk groups, such as pregnant and lactating women, the elderly, smokers and chronic alcohol abusers, chronic dieters, patients with underlying diseases, and even athletes have increased nutritional requirements causing inadequate vitamin and mineral status.

Some high-risk groups:

  • Pregnant women with micronutrient deficiencies are at risk of anemia, hypertension, impaired fetal development, and other complications. Lack of folate (or vitamin B9) during pregnancy can cause neural tube defects (NTD), while cobalamin (or vitamin B12) deficiency can increase the risk of intrauterine growth retardation, preeclampsia, early miscarriage, and obesity of the child.
  • Since older people often do not process food well, old age may be considered a risk factor for inadequate micronutrient uptake. In the course of the natural aging process, several bodily functions deteriorate and affects the body’s capability to digest and absorb nutrients. This can accelerate the natural aging process and aggravate the decline of cell renewal processes, immune defense, eyesight and hearing, and cognitive performance. Further, the presence of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and cancer can increase micronutrient requirements.
  • Time-strapped and work-stressed adults can develop marginal deficiencies from poor lifestyle practices like rushed meals, unhealthy food choices, dieting, smoking, and excessive alcohol or coffee consumption. Heavy smokers, for instance, are at risk of poor cognitive function, weaker immunity, lower fertility, and cardiovascular diseases due to low levels of selenium, zinc, and iron.
  • Chronic dieters, especially physically active young to middle-aged women who limit food intake to reduce body weight often lack calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and B complex vitamins—micronutrients that are important in energy production, healthy blood, healthy bones, and proper immune function.
  • Athletes with demanding physical activities can deplete the micronutrient status of folate, vitamin B12, and minerals, which will likely result to impaired performance and weaker endurance in the long-term due to compromised biochemical reactions that transform food into energy.

Prevent or mitigate the long-term effects of nutritional imbalance through precise intracellular analysis of micro- and macronutrients. With accurate information and the help of a health care practitioner, a proactive lifestyle advice and personalized dietary supplementation protocol can be formulated for your exact micronutrient needs.

Source: The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in in Energy Metabolism and WellBeing. E. Huskisson, S.Maggini, M.Rui. Journal of International Medical Research, 2007.