As a scientist and an ardent believer in the art of “integrated” or “functional” nutrition, I always favor obtaining as many of our nutrients from foods. Why? Because, humans are evolutionarily adapted to getting our nutrients from food, which contain many co-factors and enzymes required to absorb those nutrients. However, modern technology, unhealthy diets and fast paced lifestyles have compromised not only our food supply but also our bodies’ ability to efficiently extract nutrients from foods (such as vitamin D and magnesium), even in the context of a healthy diet. These culmination of events has created the the perfect storm, leaving most of us in a state of what’s called “nutritional stress”.
This is where we believe supplementing to fill specific gaps in our nutrition profile may be necessary. We call this “targeted supplementation”. This might seem at odds with our evolutionary blueprint, but two underlying factors affect this:
1. OUR ENVIRONMENT
Our modern environment is profoundly different than that of our ancestors. This causes a “mismatch” with our current environment in numerous ways, which in many ways, is responsible for some of the modern disease epidemics we see today. Examples include:
• A decline in soil diversity and quality leading to a decline in nutrient density of foods.
• A decrease in diversity of plant species we consume.
• An increase in exposure to food and environmental toxins.
• Overuse of antibiotics, birth control and other medications (damaging the gut and liver).
• An increase in chronic stress.
• A decrease in sleep quality and duration.
• A reduced connection with nature and less time spent outdoors.
• A move away from tight-knit social groups.
• An increase in time spent sitting.
2. OUR DNA
Our DNA also plays a substantial part in how we process and absorb nutrients. Genetic adaptations to diet consumed throughout human history have sculpted our genome and influenced a variety of traits.
Genomic adaptations to environment (through increasing advantageous mutations in DNA) are slow and usually take place through thousands of years. On the opposite end of the spectrum, modern dietary transformations are ever so accelerating, outpacing our underlying genomic predisposition.
Maladaptation of our ‘lagging’ genome to such rapid dietary transformations have resulted in loss of nutritional diversity, excess of caloric availability, and sedentary lifestyle, which underlie the wide range of so-called “civilization” diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers.