Sunday, 16 June 2019

Nutritional approach raises more questions re minerals

As mentioned previously I’ve seen a doctor locally who specialises in nutritional and environmental medicine. Vitamins and minerals are crucial to appropriate nutrition and normal body function. As our body doesn’t make most nutrients we need to get them through food. So one of the ways they work is to do a series of tests to monitor my health and diet primary by increasing or decreasing particular foods or using supplements. In this blog I’ve mentioned some of those like the Nagalase test and look at fats.

One of the labs that have looked at my blood is Biolab (i), they write: "A helpful way of approaching the diagnosis and management of clinical problems is to consider any symptom or clinical sign as a manifestation of the individual's failure to adapt adequately to the sum total of their environmental challenges. An important fundamental aspect of this approach is an awareness of the importance of the protective effects of nutrients against toxic substances, and that adequacy of nutrients is absolutely vital for accurate gene expression”.

We are each so different, what works for one may not work for another. This is so clearly true that it seems astonishing that we still see one-size fits all approaches. It was therefore great to see the news this week that research shows that in terms of diet, one size doesn't fit all. This should be no surprise to anyone with a basic understanding of nutrition….

Everyone is different when it comes to diet

The Predict Study was born out of the TwinsUK study and had 1,100 participants; “the verdict: no two people’s responses to individual foods are the same – even between identical twins” (ii). They showed for example, that identical twins often had varying responses to the same foods, and only shared 37% of their gut bacteria. That is only slightly higher than the 35% shared between two unrelated individuals.

The study collected data on a wide range of factors that can impact the way we metabolise nutrients. Not surprising to many of us, it found that our diet, lifestyle and environment are key to our health. Surely this must be the final death knell to any thoughts of links between calories in and out. Jerome Burne at Health Insight UK has written on this, calling the calories in, calories out “the zombie theory that won’t die” (iii). We still see many doctors espousing this theory and the very poor idea that making Weight Watchers available on the NHS is a good way forward. See Dr Zoe Harcombe’s expose of the lack of evidence re the theory held by key health advice organisations in this country here (iv).

Dr Andrew Chan, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital commented on the study: “It is reassuring that our genetic makeup only partially explains how our bodies respond to food. This underscores that our metabolism is not fixed – we have the power to change it. One exciting avenue is to tailor our diets to the bacteria in our gut that helps us metabolise nutrients.”

I like that - 'we have the power to change it’! Some of how I am trying to do that is understanding my body and it’s needs better. In this next bit I want to share a sample of the more interesting points from my recent minerals blood test. For more context and background see also my previous comments on the supplements I am taking here

Recent blood test

Zinc; This is a key to overall health including getting pancreatic enzymes to work - and many consider it important in tackling cancer. In my case it is particularly needed, as it can help get rid of the pesticide on my p53 gene (see previous blog here). Sadly my reading has gone down marginally and is still very much in the low reference area. This is despite taking a high food-state dose plus a zinc citrate in the evening (which is best time for absorption). I have been taking it with food as it can cause problems on an empty stomach. The Mayo Clinic says that zinc supplements work best if they are consumed a minimum of one hour prior to eating or two hours afterward. People who take zinc on an empty stomach may become nauseated or suffer other symptoms of an upset stomach, such as heartburn. However I will try taking a dose an hour before food if I can remember! Some of this supplement taking can get very complicated!

Copper; I don’t take supplements of this - and levels of this mineral were down a little which could be good as a ‘copper complex' was attached to my DNA? Copper has been shown to play a significant role in tumor growth, so low could be good (v)? There is a key relationship between zinc and copper - both minerals help to activate the enzyme copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD) which serves as an antioxidant that can clear away reactive oxygen species, so that cells can continue to function properly. Zinc and copper basically compete against one another as antagonist in order to regulate the physiological pathways in your body. The proper balance between the two trace minerals is critical to maintaining health. With both copper and zinc low I am probably not achieving a good balance at the moment.

Selenium; this had gone up; it was a wee bit high but has gone higher. This rise maybe good in terms of the fight against cancer (see my previous blog) as there is evidence around selenium's impact on both prostate and colon cancers. However I’m learning that to maximise benefits it is best to to have all three forms of selenium (vi). I have been taking L-selenomethionine which is an organic complex found in most preparations of selenium-enriched yeast. It is also the one that has been used in many clinical trials but I should perhaps consider whether the other seleniums could be useful in the future? There is also some evidence that selenium and zinc impact on each other so that it might be better to take them separately (vii). Could this have been a reason for the lower zinc? However because of the high levels I will stop supplementation at the moment as too high can be toxic and result in selenosis (viii).

Magnesium; as discussed previously this is a crucial mineral - and despite supplementation of a food state magnesium at quite a high dose, the magnesium level has gone down and is at the lower level of the normal reference range.

Calcium; this has gone down a little. I haven’t supplemented with this but I have a diet rich with stuff like broccoli so this decrease is slightly odd. Studies have indicated a possible connection between calcium and prostate cancer risk (ix) but results have been a bit of mixed picture. If as some of the research suggests, men with high-normal levels of calcium in their blood have an increased risk for developing fatal prostate cancer, then being at the lower end of the scale maybe useful? Indeed lower calcium levels could indicate that there is no metastasis? However some of the research was mixed. I suspect one of the challenges of this research is dairy; we know this increases prostate risk so maybe calcium itself is not the problem? Clearly calcium is important; not getting enough can increase the risk of osteoporosis, even among men. Plus of course some treatments can increase the risk of bone loss and fractures. 

So what is going on? 

Well it’s not so clear! I have an excellent plant-based diet plus supplements to support the areas that came out low four months ago. The zinc and magnesium levels are particularly disappointing. My first thoughts are always that getting diet right is key, then with illness it maybe necessary to supplement. However this doesn’t seem to have happened enough.

In my next blog I want to explore this further plus consider my latest ‘Ethythrocyte Essential Fatty Acids’ test results These results are four months on from the last test (see here). I will then consider next steps regarding this approach.


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