Can a healthy diet be sufficient in today's world?
Gone are the days in our so called advanced western society when healthy living meant simply getting the right nutrients from our foods. Nowadays our foods are jam packed with an array of harmful chemicals not to mention mainstream personal care products that we absorb through our skin many of which are carcinogenic. Nearly all of today's diseases stem from what we absorb, our bodies simply cannot deal with this overload of toxins exceeding the body's capacity to detoxify itself. A staggering 1 in 3 people are now falling to cancer. Experts predict that if we do not do anything to rectify this situation now, in the next 30 years cancer will just about affect 100% of us. The UK alone get through every year a staggering quarter of a million tonnes of food chemicals, 50,000 chemicals are released into the environment by industry and 400 million litres of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed onto to foods and pastures. All of this we of course absorbs into our bodies.
SOIL MINERAL DEPLETION:
Studies By Dr Linus Pauling on Soil Mineral Depletion: Studies By Dr Linus Pauling, twice noble prize winner, said "you can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency". Yet, all over the world, minerals are disappearing from agricultural soils at an alarming rate. In 1992, the official report of the Rio Earth Summit concluded "there is deep concern over continuing major declines in the mineral values in farm and range soils throughout the world". This statement was based on data showing that over the last 100 years, average mineral levels in agricultural soils had fallen worldwide - by 72% in Europe, 76% in Asia and 85% in North America. What has caused this staggering decline?
Most of the blame lies with artificial chemical fertilisers. We now know that plants absorb 70 to 80 different minerals from the soil, while the number returned to it by plants grown with commercial fertilisers can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Every crop that is cut or animal that is sent to market marks a further depletion in the mineral status of the soil on which it was raised. Organic wastes that in former times would have been composted and returned to the land are nowadays mostly consigned to landfill sites or incineration.
There are many other ways in which the move to chemical farming prevents crops from taking up even the sparse amounts of trace minerals left in the soil. Soil contains bacteria, fungi, plant and animal life, in a state of constant interaction and balance. Every one of these organisms needs dozens of different minerals to survive and play its part in the ecosystem. Some bacteria have a vital role in converting soil minerals into chemical forms that plants can use. NPK fertilisers (fertilisers used in modern farming that only contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) gradually change the soil pH towards acidic conditions in which these bacteria can not survive. To combat soil acidification farmers lay lime on the land adding back calcium and magnesium to raise the soil pH, but it also converts manganese and some other trace minerals into chemical forms that plants are unable to absorb.
Pesticides and herbicides also reduce the uptake of trace minerals by plants. Plants have an important relationship with certain fungi that can form networks covering several acres. The fungus obtains carbohydrates from the plant root, at the same time supplying the plant with nutrients it draws from the soil. This gives the plant access to a vastly greater mineral extraction system than is possible by their roots alone. Chemical fungicide sprays destroy these beneficial fungi and so again reduce the ability of plants to absorb soil minerals. Insecticides can also reduce trace mineral uptake by inactivating choline-containing enzymes in plants, essential for the absorption of manganese and other minerals.
The combined effect of soil mineral depletion and the reduced availability of those minerals that remain is that most of the food that we eat is mineral deficient. The table below summarizes the reductions in the average mineral content of 27 vegetables and 17 fruits, between 1940 and 1991. The results of the latest research are expected to show mineral values in continual decline.
Reduction in average mineral content of fruit and vegetables between 1940 and 1991 shown in graph below:
A new study published earlier this year shows that, as might be expected, mineral levels in animal products reflect the picture in plant foods. Comparing levels measured in 2002 with those present in 1940, the iron content of milk was found to be 62% less, calcium and magnesium in parmesan cheese had each fallen by 70% and copper in dairy produce had plummeted by a remarkable 90%.
In the UK and Ireland government are putting resources into improving health by encouraging people to eat a healthy diet, including 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, but you scarcely hear a word about the problem of soil mineral depletion. Food seems to be considered as something quite separate from its source and means of production. But this is not rocket science - the foundation of human health is the quality of the food we eat, which relies ultimately on the vitality of the soil on which it is raised.
What happens to us if we are mineral deficient? Minerals are an essential part of our natural diet and a lack of them may in part account for our increasing susceptibility to diseases - such as heart disease (magnesium), cancer (selenium), diabetes (chromium) and mental illnesses (zinc). Zinc is perhaps the most commonly deficient mineral and the most critical mineral for metal health. The average intake is around 7.5mg, which is half the RDA of 15mg. Every one of us should take care to get the minerals we need, for the good of our health.
A few Signs and a few mild to extreme Symptoms of Mineral deficiency:
Potassium deficiency: Dry skin, poor reflexes, apathy, weakness, confusion, and extreme thirst.
Magnesium deficiency: Apathy, weakness, cramps and muscle tremors (tetany) which leads to convulsions, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, depression, constipation, hyperactivity, Irregular heart rhythms.
Calcium deficiency: Muscle weakness or cramps, Brittle bones, rickets, osteoporosis.
Iron deficiency: Shortness of breathe, Fatigue, Iron deficiency anaemia, reduced resistance to infections, poor appetite.
Zinc deficiency: Hair loss, skin changes, diarrhoea, wasting of body tissue, loss of taste and smell, thin fingernails with white spots, acne, fatigue, memory loss, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, poor immunity, dandruff, psoriasis, hyperactivity,
What functions do mineral have in our bodies?
Minerals are needed for the proper formation of blood and bone, the maintenance of healthy nerve function, heartbeat regulation, reproduction and foetal development. They are essential to the process of growth, healing and energy release. And it is not just the presence of the mineral in the body that is important - they must be in the correct ratio to each other. The level of each mineral has an effect, directly or indirectly, on every other, so if one is out of kilter the whole system is affected. Calcium, magnesium and phosphorous help make up the bones and teeth. Nerve signals, vital for the brain and muscles, depend on calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Oxygen is carried in the blood by an iron compound also essential for oxygenation of and carbon dioxide extraction from the body. Chromium helps control blood sugar levels. Zinc is vital for body repairs, renewal and development. Selenium and zinc help boost the immune system. Brain function depends on adequate magnesium, manganese, zinc and other essential minerals. These are a few out of a thousand key roles minerals play our health.
What can you do to ensure that you are getting the minerals that you need in your diet?
Eat Organic: The first thing you can do is to eat organic. Organic foods have a higher mineral content than those grown with chemicals, plus by eating organic you are supporting the environment.
Take supplements: It is very important nowadays to supplement your diet with good quality supplements that are easily absorbed by your body. There are a lot of supplements out there that are a waste of money because they are manufactured with synthetic ingredients. These should be avoided as your body will not absorb them. We at purenewyou.com offer a complete range of mineral and vitamin supplements. For information go to our section: Vitamins and Minerals.
Campaign: Get in touch with the Soil Association or Food Commission to get further information to raise awareness to the problem of nutrient depletion or write to your local TD. or MP.