BY TRACY McCUBBIN, MD, ABOIM, ABEM
The answer is “Yes!” However, many traditional primary care physicians aged 45-65 will disagree. The prevailing wisdom as we went through medical school was that one can get all the necessary nutrients through food. And, in the past, you actually could get most of your nutrients from your 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Now, you need 7-9 servings of the colorful stuff daily and that is hard for most of us to do on a regular basis.
According to a report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “No U.S. state is meeting national objectives for consumption of fruits and vegetables.” Another government-funded study concluded that over 80 percent of adults fail to meet daily produce recommendations meant to guide us toward vitamin and mineral adequacy.
In addition, a study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that “Nearly the entire US population consumes a diet that is not on par with the recommendations.” I suppose we can conclude from these studies that we are failing at nutrition. However, let’s not miss the bigger question: Why do we need so many more servings?
The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion. We are growing our produce in dirt and not soil. Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil where our food is grown. Davis and colleagues published a landmark study on this issue in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied US Department of Agriculture nutritional data on 43 different vegetables and fruits from 1950 and again in 1999. They found “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century, an overall average decrease of 28%.
They concluded that efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth. There have likely also been declines in other nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E but these were not measured in 1950 so there is no actual comparison data.
At this time the daily recommended number of vegetables and fruit is 7-9 servings daily. One serving is 1 cup raw produce and ½ cup cooked. That is difficult for even my healthiest eaters to achieve!
What can be done? One way to sustain healthier produce is healthier soil. Alternating fields between growing seasons to give land time to restore would be one important step. Also, foregoing pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic growing methods is good for the soil, the produce and its consumers. Those who want to get the most nutritious fruits and vegetables should buy regularly from local organic farmers.
Getting our necessary vitamins and nutrients from food does not seem like a viable option for most people. Our SAD (Standard American Diet) is simply not meeting our nutritional needs. A multivitamin multimineral supplement is a necessary nutritional safety net!
However, not all vitamins are created equal! Just as we are pushing our crops to produce larger yields, we are loading our supplements with low quality ingredients and fillers so that we can sell them nationwide. Finding a supplement from a trusted nutraceutical brand, without a proprietary blend, and free of dyes and preservatives is essential when choosing a multivitamin. I have a few favorites!
We feel it is best to test and not guess in most situations. Therefore, we offer a functional nutritional test called “NutrEval” in our office. This test measures various organic acids in a few major biochemical pathways in the body. It evaluates where certain vitamins and minerals are used as cofactors in these processes and estimates an amount that each individual needs on a daily basis. This test offers information about fatty acids, detoxification pathways, neurotransmitters, heavy metal exposure and provides a breakdown of your amino acid needs. Please contact our office if you would like more information on vitamins or functional testing.
At Radiance Functional Medicine, we are committed to helping you achieve optimal health. Dr. Tracy has 30 years of experience in medicine. Contact our office if you would like to discuss your health goals. We offer free 15 minute Discovery Calls. Visit us at radiancefunctionalmedicine.com or call 303-333-1668.