The term was first used in the 1990s to describe nutrient shortfalls within the Western diet, in particular, micronutrient nutrients (vitamin and minerals).
We only need half of the calories that our ancestors obtained, we don't hunter-gather anymore, eating around 2000kcal per day, compared to 4000kcal for our ancestors. However, in reducing calories we also reduced our intake of micronutrients. Current thinking would suggest we need that we need ancestral levels to live optimally.
Since the 1960s and the boom of commercial food products, the amount of people suffering with chronic disease in our population has risen. Micronutrient intake has decreased in that time.Modern commercial diets are creating an over-fed and under nourished society, essentially - dubbed B Type malnutrition. It is sad to think that we are malnourished but not due to poverty like the A type nutrition of developing nations!
And, degenerative diseases that once affected older generations are now occurring in younger people too. A recent article suggested that cancer is affecting our younger generations - and most likely because we are eating food-like products, not real food! Which is fake, toxic and lacks nutritionally dense phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that our ancestors would have eaten.
Correlations would suggest that we are not getting the nutrients levels we need from food for optimum health. In particular, through the notable work of an American Professor, Bruce Ames. He suggested the Trait Theory of Ageing (2011); hypothesising that low levels of micronutrients could cause accelerating ageing, with dis-ease viewed as a ‘hidden hunger’.
A great talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_ejd3JyyZk
I am a big supporter of the Theory of Ageing hypothesis. I have seen dogs with diagnosed illnesses ameliorating in just a few weeks when their owner provided them with optimal and balanced micronutrients. Whilst our canine friends have a less complex physiology, it is clear that nutrition plays a big role in our health yet often considered a last resort.
And optimal nutrition should be the first resort right? for us and the dogs. Why? Well, we are made of the nutrients found in the foods we eat! The body has hundreds of biochemical pathways reliant on a variety of micronutrients. I like to think of the pathways as games of Mousetrap - if there is a part missing the pathway won’t work optimally, if at all.
We need the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients from our diet to maintain our cells, reduce damage, to replicate correctly, breakdown and assimilate nutrients. If toxicity levels build in the body and our detoxification channels are sluggish the liver has a harder job to do, and further impacting on our health. The same for our gut. When nutrients are involved complex networks and these networks go wrong, we can begin to see that chronic disease often has a myriad of symptoms, which could actually have a root cause in poor nutrition.
In nutritional therapy we work with a client to assess their nutrient intake and try to rebalance levels through recommended foods or whole-food supplements, working at the cellar level. What does a cell need to remain healthy? Get this right and clients will often notice that increased energy goes hand in hand with better sleep, better skin, a better mood…
At the end of the day we have evolved with nature and all her bounties. We are designed to process and assimilate nutrients and foods found in nature, not processed ones so why not eat how a 90 year old grandma would have eaten - locally, seasonally, organically, with the correct food preparations and certainly, a lack of the unprocessed food choices we have today. Let’s get back to our ancient ways!