Obesity and Micronutrients
by Dr. Bruce West
For decades scientists have considered whether a deficiency of micronutrients could lead to obesity. The theory is that a deficiency of the micronutrients necessary to maintain health would send a “keep eating” signal to the brain to resolve the deficiency. And many people—from ancient healers, to the founders of Cambridge International, and now to the most unlikely scientist of all—believe this theory to be true.
Macronutrients are fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are basically vitamins and minerals. But vitamins and minerals cannot be utilized without a host of ancillary food factors like enzymes, coenzymes, trace minerals, metabolic cofactors, and more. Therefore, my definition of micronutrients is not just vitamins and minerals, but rather all the other factors combined with vitamins and minerals.
An Unlikely Supporter
The most unlikely scientist of all to chime in supporting the obesity/micronutrient theory is biochemist Bruce Ames, Ph.D. Ames’ work in biochemistry and molecular biology began at the California Institute of Technology, and then to the National Institutes of Health, research laboratories in England, and now he is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and senior scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.
To give you some background, Ames was the first scientist to say pesticides were safe—writing more than 150 papers on the subject. He was labeled a shill for the chemical industry. Over the years he has also been uncomplimentary of the supplement industry. But now Ames feels that people in this country are suffering from hidden hunger. Surely most people are not hungry. And they have no deficiency of calories. Yet, according to Ames, they suffer from hidden hunger because their calories (mostly from processed and junk foods) lack micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). In effect, they are “starving for vitamins and minerals.”
And just what does this deficiency do to people? Ames thinks it does plenty—and I agree. Aside from inducing obesity through overeating, Ames says the deficiency of micronutrients can upset functions throughout the entire body and brain. All this leads to the degenerative diseases that most older Americans suffer from—dementia, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
In fact Ames wrote in one of his papers that nutritional deficiencies are critical when it comes to cancer. He said, “the relationship between diet and cancer has, historically, been thought of in terms of exposure to carcinogens, such as alcohol. Dietary deficiencies, however, might be a much more important factor in cancer risk.” I agree.
Ames and Supplements
Ames now feels that many people suffer from mild, moderate, and severe micronutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies cause illness, obesity, premature aging, and early death—especially from cancer. Ames is calling for a metabolic tune-up—a bottle of pills (vitamins and minerals) in layman’s terms. He feels that resolving the micronutrient deficiency will lead to a cure for obesity itself! A bold idea.
Ames uses examples of deficiencies to demonstrate how lack of nutrients can bend DNA and break chromosomes—major causes of cancer. The public generally thinks we are born with our DNA and genetic tendency toward cancer and disease. Ames points out that nutrient deficiencies can bend, break, and alter DNA—a more critical cancer factor than genetics alone.
Our cells go through many generations of reproduction and rebirth. Yet Ames proves that with deficiencies, cells senesce—or age prematurely. In fact, Ames has proved that nutrient deficiencies in tissues can degrade DNA and mutate chromosomes—causing cancer. This can take place slowly, often over 20 to 30 years.
Ames feels that supplying the necessary micronutrients will provide immediate results. He is convinced that once people receive the nutrients they are lacking, their cellular health will improve, their bodies will tell their brains when they are full, and they will eat less. But since people often fail to take charge of their own lives and eat a healthy diet, Ames is looking to pills.
Micronutrients or “Vitamins and Minerals“?
There is always a question of whether “vitamin and mineral” pills can actually fill the void of micronutrient deficiencies. In fact, Ames asks, “If supplements provide the absent micronutrients, would the body finally tell the brain it’s full?” And indeed, to date, studies with everyday people seem to say no. Nutritional experts, including me, argue that the body cannot interpret vitamins and minerals in pill form as it does micronutrients absorbed directly from food.
The reason is simple. The whole group of micronutrients is made up of trace minerals, enzymes, coenzymes, and other unknown metabolic cofactors. They make vitamins and minerals work. Without them (as in vitamin pills), vitamins and minerals just don’t get properly absorbed and metabolized—in short, they don’t work for you. The pill pushers would have you believe that as long as you eat food when you take your “vitamins,” the necessary trace elements and cofactors are present to make the “vitamins” work.
But wait a minute. If you are an obese American, or even if you are of average weight, the food you eat does not contain the necessary trace elements. Most foods in the American diet have been stripped of these elements during processing. And the rest of the foods in the standard diet have had these elements cooked out of them. So unless you eat a very healthy diet, with lots of raw foods, pills will not work for you. Even if you do eat well, only a tiny fraction of the cheapest synthetic vitamin pill is absorbed. And no one knows if this fraction really performs its function in the body.
Phytonutrients Provide Needed Food
The obese individual is left with few choices. The best option is a good diet with lots of exercise. It also includes plenty of micronutrients—in their natural form—as in phytonutrients. These pills are actually food in its natural state: raw, unpreserved, and unprocessed. In short, the body recognizes these phytonutrients as complete, with all the necessary cofactors to make the vitamins work.
That is why whole food vitamins or phytonutrients are 100 times more effective than regular vitamins, even at megadoses. Unless you are already on a phytonutrient protocol, if you have a weight problem, you need to supply your body with a constant source of micronutrients. Fortunately this can be done easily with just two products from Standard Process.
Catalyn, a multinutritional supplement, has been the premiere phytonutrient product for more than 75 years. And Min-Trap, a mineral supplement, has been the premiere mineral product for more than 50 years. Just take 6-9 tablets of each daily, and you will be supplying a steady stream of micronutrients—just as Ames would like. And if you have trouble sleeping, get a bonus from these two by taking 1-2 Catalyn, and 3-5 Min-Tran at bedtime. Reestablishing your micronutrients at bedtime will allow you to have better, sounder, less interrupted sleep. Now there’s a side effect we can all sleep on.
Cure For Obesity?
Surely treatment for overeating and obesity is not as simple as taking some pills—if only it were. Given all the psychological reasons for the way we eat and live our lives, and the typical diet of processed and cooked foods, it would be foolish to
think that obesity is such an uncomplicated problem. Nonetheless, everyone, especially the obese, needs a steady supply of micronutrients. And if you are overweight, this supply can tell your brain that your body is not really craving food. Often that will help you eat better, eat less, think more rationally, and maybe even begin an exercise program. These are the only real answers to overeating and obesity.