13th October 2011 by SevenSeasLife | 9 Comments
It seems that each week we are bombarded with stories about which food is “good” or “bad” or which nutrient will either kill or cure us. Today we have access to, and are exposed to, more information than ever before about what we should and shouldn’t eat, yet more and more of the media coverage seems to be contradictory or just plain confusing. This article aims to simply explain the role of vitamins and nutrients.
Food provides a range of different nutrients, some providing energy, while others are essential for growth and maintenance of the body.
Nutritionists have a widely accepted understanding of the role of nutrients in health and disease. People need many different nutrients if they are to maintain health and reduce the risk of diet-related diseases. Each nutrient has a particular series of functions in the body and some nutrients are needed in larger quantities than others.
Nutrients that cannot be made by the human body are called essential nutrients and must be derived from food sources. Essential nutrients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and some carbohydrates as a source of energy. Non-essential nutrients are, as the name suggests, nutrients which the body has the ability to make from other compounds, as well as, from food sources. Nutrients are generally divided into 2 categories, macro-nutrients, and micro-nutrients.
The majority of mainstream dietary advice focuses on our macro-nutrient intake. Macro-nutrients are carbohydrates (such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta), protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods) and fats (oils, spreads, oily fish) that we need to eat in relatively large amounts in the diet (hence the term “macro”). These nutrients form the majority of what we eat and provide our bodies with energy and also the building blocks for growth and maintenance of a healthy body.
Vitamins and minerals are micro-nutrients which are only needed by the body in very small amounts (hence the term “micro”), but are essential to keep us healthy. Most vitamins cannot be made by the body, so need to be provided through the diet or supplementation.
Vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in our bodies and are readily excreted and include the B vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the gut with the help of the fat in our diet. These include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.
Nutrition Aware: proficient or deficient?, a Nutritional analysis report commissioned from the Future Foundation by Seven Seas Ltd, highlights that the current obsession with counting calories and yo-yo dieting is having a detrimental effect on our health.
What is evident from our nutritional analysis is that deep-rooted confusion currently undermines many consumers’ ability to ensure an intake of micronutrients that is appropriate to their personal situation or circumstance. The food-industry and media focus on macro-nutrients and our own obsession with Calorie counting is driving a blinkered view of nutritional intake.
On 28 March 2011 representatives from business, academia and health joined forces to sign and publish a global call to action pushing for a larger role for nutrition in supporting public health. Specifically, the document flagged:
“a lesser known problem of micro-nutrient deficiency in the developed world, where the supply of food can be plentiful but some population groups are not achieving the right level of micro-nutrients in their diet to support good health.”
The UK Government in recent decades has collected dietary information using the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) and there is strong evidence suggesting that adults[1,2,3,4,5], young children[1,6,7], young people[1,2,8] and those aged 65 years and over are consuming lower than recommended levels of several vitamins and minerals.
Yes, that’s fine, but what do I really need?
A healthy, varied and balanced diet should provide most people the nutrients needed for health, growth and development.
However, certain groups within the population are recommended to supplement their diet. In the U.K., the Department of Health recommends Vitamin D supplements for pregnant and lactating women (10 µg/day) and those aged 65 and over (10 µg/day). Pregnant women are also advised to take folic acid supplements for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to prevent deformities such as spina bifida developing in their baby.
Iron supplements may be necessary for women with very heavy menstrual losses and women who enter pregnancy with low iron stores.
However, a “healthy, varied and balanced diet” is often difficult to achieve. Our research supports the growing body of evidence that “good nutrition” is not of prime importance in everyday lives. This research undertaken with the Future Foundation has revealed a fixation with dieting and that our weight is taking priority over the nutritional content of our food, which may result in nutritional deficiencies.
Whatever the reasons, be they lack of education, monetary pressures or mixed messages in the media, almost one-third of 16-24s found it hard to know which foods benefit their health. We risk the next generation not understanding the benefits of good nutrition on their health.
The view at Seven Seas is that supplements should be an aid to a healthier lifestyle. Supplements contain a range of essential vitamins and minerals which help those with less healthy, or irregular diets, to “bridge the gap” and meet recommended intakes of nutrients, thus ensuring the maintenance of normal health and well-being.
To make sure that you are unlikely to be deficient take a good quality supplement. For a healthy person with no known health conditions nutritionists recommend a good quality multivitamin and mineral and a daily omega 3 supplement.
Check out our Nutrients Database for more detailed information on each nutrient.
Always consult your doctor before taking supplements and check for interactions with all medication.
Are you Nutrition Aware? Take our Seven Seas Nutritional Aware tool
Good Nutrition – Good nutrition? are we lacking the basic tools to understand
Nutritional deficiency – Nutritional deficiency or profeciency key findings
Food and Nutrtition - Nutritional confusion in an age of food expertise
Calorie counting – Calorie Counting – The Cult
Disclaimer: Seven Seas Life is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The articles are based on peer reviewed research, and discoveries/products mentioned in the articles may not be approved by our regulatory bodies, you will find no mention of Seven Seas products within the pages of the Seven Seas Life Section..Read more
You must be logged in to post a comment.