Are You Among the 90% of Americans Who Have a Nutrient Deficiency?
Ever wonder if you have a nutritional deficiency? Chances are, you do. Sound a little extreme? Well, according to a 2011 report, nine out of 10 Americans fall short of key nutrients in their diets.
You hear it all the time. From your mom, from dietitians, from doctors, from coaches. Just eat a "balanced diet," and you'll be fine. The problem that I have found is that, just like with Bigfoot, I've never really seen a completely balanced diet. And it's not for a lack of trying.
Back when I was a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario, I set out to find the mythical "balanced diet." I analyzed the intake of nearly 600 fourth-year exercise and nutrition undergraduate students.
Less than 10 percent of them met the minimum standards for a complete, balanced diet. The most common deficiencies were zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein.
Need More Proof About Nutrition Deficiencies?
A 2006 study "Food Alone May Not Provide Sufficient Micronutrients for Preventing Deficiency," published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, showed even more convincingly that it's really hard to get all the essential vitamins and minerals from food alone.
In this study 70 athlete diets were analyzed. And every single one was deficient by more than two nutrients. The most common deficiencies were iodine, vitamin D, zinc, vitamin E, and calcium.
And a 2010 study "Prevalence of Micronutrient Deficiency in Popular Diet Plans," also published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, corroborated these findings. In this one, researchers showed that people following one of four popular diet plans, including the Atkins for Life Diet and The South Beach Diet, had a very high likelihood of becoming micronutrient deficient.
According to the authors, “Six micronutrients (vitamin B7, vitamin D, vitamin E, chromium, iodine and molybdenum) were identified as consistently low or nonexistent in all four diet plans.” The bottom line: dietary deficiencies are very common. And, chances are, you've got one--no matter how good you
My Own Experience with Deficiency
Trust me, I know from experience. Not too long ago, after some blood and urine testing, I discovered two nutrient deficiencies of my own.
Now let's get something straight. In addition to having a PhD in the field of exercise and nutritional biochemistry, I'm universally regarded as a guy who practices what he preaches.
I've played sports at the elite level. I've won national titles in bodybuilding. When elite athletes want to learn how to eat properly, they come stay with me for a week. Heck, every few months, I even do one those computer-based nutrient analyses. And my diet always passes with flying colors.
Nevertheless, after doing some routine blood and urine testing, something I do with most of my top athletes, I discovered that I was borderline deficient in essential amino acids and in vitamin D.
Amino Acids and Vitamin D?
Now, here's the interesting part. One look at my diet would've suggested that amino acids and vitamin D were the last things I'd need to worry about.
I was taking in at least 250 grams of protein every day, which is way above the recommended average of 56 grams for men 19 years or older (and 46 grams recommend for women 19 years or older). I used BCAA rich workout and post-workout drinks. Plus, I supplemented with 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day - also significantly higher than the recommended allowance of vitamin D of 600 IU for both man and women 19 years or older.
Yet, despite my rather high intake of protein, I ended up in the lowest 20th percentile with respect to the essential amino acids.
And, despite supplementing with more than the government recommendation for vitamin D, I ended up scoring 40ng/ml, which is at the low end of the healthy reference range (32-100ng/ml).
Indeed, it wasn't until I made some modifications to my protein and vitamin D intake that my physiological panel (which also includes: blood fatty acid levels, salivary hormone levels, urinary pH, urinary minerals, and blood iron) showed a nice profile - with all values in the optimal range.
Of course, this is just my experience. And, as each of us has our own unique physiology, your experience could differ substantially.
Your Take-Home Message
The take-home message here is this: Eating for optimal health, performance, and physiology means going beyond trying to get a balanced diet. And even if you can accomplish the balanced diet part (and research shows that most people can’t), you still may have a few deficiencies that need attention.
So, if you really want to be your best, first, make sure you're regularly assessing your diet. Second, get tested - you can talk to your doctor or a nutrition professional about this.
By working with a professional to test your EFAs, amino acids, vitamin D levels, and more, you'll be able to fine-tune your diet for optimal performance. And you'll avoid being one of the many suffering from multiple nutritional deficiencies.
Until next time,
Dr John Berardi is the director of the world’s largest body transformation project. In the last 5 years, his team has helped over 15,000 clients lose more than 250,000 pounds of body fat. (That’s more total weight loss than all seasons of the Biggest Loser combined). For more on his one-of-a-kind program – Lean Eating Coaching – click here.