The Nutrition Gap
Creates Hidden Hunger
Addressing The Nutrition Gap Effectively
“Hidden Hunger affects more than two billion people. Even when a person consumes adequate calories and protein, if they lack one single micronutrient, or a combination of vitamins and minerals, their immune system is compromised and infections take hold.”
World Food Programme 2007
Hidden Hunger (otherwise known as The Nutrition Gap)
Hidden hunger is unlike the hunger that comes from a lack of food. It is a chronic lack of vitamins and minerals that often has no visible warning signs, so that sufferers may not even be aware of it. Its consequences are nevertheless disastrous: hidden hunger can lead to mental impairment, poor health and productivity, or even death. This is a global problem, but even in the affluent UK population, 1 in 3 people are affected.
In 2009 exhaustive work by The Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) identified a number of deficiencies in key nutrients in every group of the population. Yet there is still a widely held belief that we can get all we need from a balanced diet.
What is the truth? Let us examine the facts:
• Good nutrition is fundamental to good health
• To maintain good health, the human body requires a daily intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from food
• Many people are short of essential nutrients [4,16]
• Suboptimal intake of essential nutrients is linked to many of the prevailing degenerative diseases of our generation [1, 2, 4, 7, 20]
• Deficiencies may not always be obvious, as frequently these people are overweight
• Nutrients from food - or in the same form as those in food - are the only ones that can effectively meet our metabolic needs and satisfy our “hunger” in total.
Background and Overview
We were designed to live 120 years. Most of us live for just over half this time and die from the effects of ‘civilisation’, rather than the natural causes of aging . The reasons for this are multifactorial, but the most significant predisposing factor is the dramatic change which has occurred over the past 70 years to our nutritional status . We used to die from infection or trauma.
20th Century medicine has scored significant victories against these causes.
Today, most illnesses are caused by lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise and smoking .
To effectively address the first of these causes, we need to improve our nutritional status. But first, we need to understand what is going wrong.
The nutritional status of our bodies is dependent on 5 things:
• Our food choices;
• Food growing, processing and preparation methods;
• The nutrient content of the food we eat;
• The ability of our bodies to assimilate these nutrients;
• Lifestyle factors, such as smoking or alcohol intake, which give rise to extra nutrient needs.
The Good Old Days - 1930 and before
The 1930s and before were a time of eco balance and symbiosis. Man evolved in harmony with the components he needed for good health:
Water - natural source and pure
Air - fresh and unpolluted
Light - sunshine filtered by ozone
Food - nutrient-rich whole food
a) Food Choices
Diets in the 1930s consisted of fresh, freerange meat and locallygrown seasonal fruit and vegetables. Mothers were at home and took the time to prepare and cook fresh meals, and these habits were passed on to their children. Processed food and fast-food options were not available. The focus of life in those days was the family, and the mother’s role was one of nurturing and caring for the children and her husband.
b) The Nutritional State of the Food
Rotational farming - fodder crops rotated with nitrogen-fixing crops and grazing animals - ensured mineral-rich fruit and vegetables, grown in mineral-rich soil . Crops remove minerals from the soil. Nitrogen-fixing crops and animal waste return them. This is sustainable, or conservational, agriculture. Chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides were not used in agriculture before 1930. All these substances upset the mycorrhizal (probiotic bacterial) balance of the soil and reduce the availability of its minerals.
Most produce was consumed locally and its waste returned to local soil, thus renourishing the ground.
The result was an eco balance of healthy, mineral-rich soil, maintained by waste and natural colonies of soil bacteria. Seasonally-produced plants grew rich in minerals and provided humans and animals with the minerals and phytonutrients they needed for health.
Meat was high in omega 3 essential fatty acids. Grazing (free range) animals
produced meat higher in omega 3 than that from grain-fed animals. 
“Minerals in the soil control the metabolism of plants, animals and man. All life will be either healthy or unhealthy, according to the fertility of the soil.”
Dr Alexus Carrel, 1912 Nobel Prize Winner, and a prophet ahead of his time.
c) Food Preparation methods
According to Dr Paul Clayton, the Victorians knew more about the preparation of healthy food than we do. Even the good old Sunday roast, with prime meat and healthy vegetables, was better in those days. Why? Because the Victorians knew how to use herbs like rosemary to absorb and remove noxious substances like the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that form in foods during roasting at high temperatures. They also used slower cooking processes at lower temperatures, which helped to maintain the integrity of the nutrients in the food.
There was less wastage too. For instance, water used for boiling meat and vegetables, which contained the water-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients, was saved for use in soups and gravies.
The "Not-So-Good" New Days - 1930 and beyond
Earth Summit Report found that mineral depletion of the soil is over 76% in Europe and 80% in the USA.
"You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency"
Two times Nobel Prize Winner Dr.Linus Pauling
In our time, the eco balance has been disturbed, and this has had significant repercussions on the nutritional status of humans and animals.
1) Water - no longer pure and natural. It is treated with fluoride and other chemicals, many of which affect the way our bodies absorb vitamins and minerals. For instance, fluoride inhibits iodine absorption.
2) Air - no longer clean and fresh. It is full of pollution in the form of industrial waste and fuel fumes. There are more free radicals, which in turn pollute our bodies and increase our antioxidant requirements.
3) Light - marred by air pollution. Pure light is extremely important for cell growth and development in plants, animals and humans.
4) Nutrients and Food
As more women started to go out to work and lifestyles became more pressurised, so food choices changed to accommodate this. The carefully prepared, fresh daily meals were replaced by convenience and processed foods.
Today’s children are so accustomed to fast foods that in one school survey, 7 out of 10 thought that potatoes grew on trees! Most people do not eat food with the thought of it giving them the nourishment they need for health. They see it more as a source of energy and something to satisfy hunger. Most processed foods are purchased for colour, taste, texture, calorie content and ease of preparation - not for nutritional value.
SACN’s 2009 Report, The Nutritional Wellbeing of the British Population, identified the following:
• Fruit and vegetable intake is suboptimal in all groups of the population. It is widely recognised that fruit and vegetables reduce the risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease and many other chronic disease conditions, but the 5-a-Day message is not working. The mean intake across all ages is 2.8 portions per day, which includes some people in the younger age groups who are not eating any fruit and veg on a daily basis. This shortfall gives rise to a population who are depleted in the active phytonutrients from fruit and vegetables - primarily flavonoids and carotenoids - whose action is protective, antioxidant and reparative.
• Vitamin and mineral intake is suboptimal in all groups, with evidence of very low status of individual nutrients in some groups. These widespread shortfalls are a significant factor in the declining health of the British people.
• Vitamin D: this vitamin plays a major role in the prevention of cancers, osteoporosis and falls in the elderly, and in mental health and wellbeing. Low intakes have been identified in all age groups, but the lowest is in those who need it most - people over 64 and pregnant and nursing women. The most recent data suggests that intakes of up to 5,000iu would be beneficial and do no harm, whereas the current RDA is 2000iu.
• Oily fish: known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory conditions, and to promote mental acuity and concentration. All groups failed to meet the recommended level of 1 portion per week - the mean intake being 0.3.
|The State of The Food
In June 2002, The American Medical Association recommended that everyone should take a multivitamin & mineral supplement to help prevent chronic diseases resulting from a diet of nutrientdepleted foods. The food throughout Europe is similarly depleted. Why?
The table above illustrates the difference in nutrient intake between these two types of diet. Plant foods are high in protective nutrients, whereas animal foods are calorie dense, with little or no protective or antioxidant content. This is a major contributor to the nutrition gap that we now face, and would be difficult to resolve without major dietary changes for most people.
The Suggested Optimal Daily Amounts (SODAs) listed below are those published by Dr Paul Clayton in his book Health Defence (2004) and more recently updated in published work commissioned by us. Dr Clayton reviewed over 4,000 studies to arrive at these levels, which are both safe and effective
Of most significance is that NONE of the groups are getting 5 portions a day.
Additional lifestyle factors that also contribute to the Nutrition Gap
• Dieters - When food intake is reduced, the intake of micronutrients is also reduced, but the body’s requirement for certain vitamins and minerals may actually increase during periods of weight loss.
• Smokers - Each cigarette uses up large amounts of vitamin C and other antioxidants, which is one reason why smokers are more susceptible to heart disease and cancers.
• Drinkers - Too much alcohol depletes the body of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and calcium.
• Athletes - Heavy exercise burns more oxygen, and increases the requirements for antioxidants. Large quantities of zinc and other minerals are lost in sweat, and need to be replaced.
• Sun-worshippers - Too much sun uses up antioxidants. Extra intake of vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids and carotenoids help protect your skin from the aging effects of the sun
.• Vegans and vegetarians - Need to plan their diets carefully; in particular, to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin B12 and vitamin D - often short in these diets.
• Accidents, illness and surgery - All increase the need for vitamins and minerals, including zinc, calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C, D and E.
• Pregnancy and breast-feeding - The metabolic demands of providing for a growing infant increase the need for B complex vitamins, folic acid, vitamins A, D and E and minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium.
• The Pill - Oral contraceptives are thought to increase the need for folic acid, vitamins B and C and zinc.
• Post-menopausal women - Need more calcium, magnesium and other minerals to spare their bones. Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K and plant-derived phytonutrients are also important.
• The Elderly - Digestion is less efficient in the elderly, who generally have multiple micronutrient depletion. Poor dentition, depression, other illnesses and drug ingestion may further compound the problem in this age group.
What Can We Do To Address The Imbalance?
The human body needs certain levels of nutrients for optimum health; anything less and it is more susceptible to disease. Food had the ability to supply all the nutrients we needed for optimum health. However, over the past 50 years, the nutrient content of our diets has changed dramatically because:
• Our food choices are now predominately for nutrient depleted foods
• Even for those who eat 3-plus-a-day portions of fruit and veg, there is mineral depletion of the soil. As a result, fewer minerals are found in plants and the animals which graze on them
• We eat both mineral-depleted plants and mineral-depleted animals. There is a big gap in the nutritional status of most people today, and even a wholesome diet of organic food will not always be able to supply all our nutrient requirements .
In the words of Dr Paul Clayton:
• This explains why diseases, previously seen only in the elderly, are now affecting younger people. It is due to multiple system failure caused by cumulative depletion of many micronutrients. And as most people are depleted in the majority of micronutrients, it does not make sense to take a single micronutrient.
• Unfortunately, this truth has been overlooked by many clinical scientists. Wedded as they are to the single agent, ‘magic bullet’ approach, they find it hard to appreciate the complex relationship between multiple food ingredients and health.
• We do not have the resources to analyse millions of individual cases, but there is no need to do so. The vast majority of people are consuming sub-optimal amounts of micronutrients, most of which are safe. So if we wish to improve the general health of the nation, a comprehensive baseline programme of micronutrient support is the best way to achieve this.
• If a nutrient programme is sufficiently comprehensive, it will remedy whatever dietary defects an individual or population may have. The nutrients needed for health provide overlapping lines of defence. Each defence affords some protection, but unless you have all the defences in place, you remain vulnerable.
Solving the Nutrition Gap and
satisfying “Hidden Hunger”