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Nutrient - Food-based nutrition as nature intended

Crude extracts are more biologically effective than the isolated vitamin.

By Karen Wilson BSc (Hons) MSc NutMed

When you bite into an apple or eat an orange do you think about what it contains? Probably not. But consider for a moment the fact that nature almost never supplies simple single nutrients. The fruit you are eating is a complicated organic structure. When you get down to the molecular level it is a matrix of biological complexes, forming the individual cells, which together make the whole fruit. 

In nature, vitamins and minerals are always bound within the structure of the plant, as biological complexes attached either to amino acids, proteins, polysaccharides, lipids or other food nutrients. 

As we learn more about nutrition, nutritionists are beginning to realise that nutrients rarely work in isolation and that each organic component of the whole food is important, because many nutrients work in synergy together and food is always more than the sum of individual nutrients. 

Dr Szent-Györgyi won the Nobel prize in 1937 for isolating vitamin C from peppers. He found that crude extracts were more biologically effective than the isolated vitamin. 

He believed other nutrients were needed for optimum vitamin C function and proposed that these other plant substances protected and worked synergistically with it. A man who was way ahead of his time! 

Over millions of years, our bodies evolved, shaped by the environment and the food available to us. Our digestive system developed into a sophisticated organ, able to break down the complex molecules in food and release the essential nutrients for absorption. 

It makes sense, then, to take vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients in a true food, which the body will both recognise and use efficiently. 

Too often, our food is lacking in the nutrients needed for optimum health. This is the negative impact on our diet of over- farming, modern agricultural methods, unnatural hydroponic culture and artificial lighting. To optimise health, we often have to turn to supplements to bridge the nutrition gap. 

Microbial magic

Yeast has been part of our diet almost since time began. It swells bread, brews beer and bubbles champagne. You either love it or hate it - like Marmite - and it has been studied more than any other living thing on the planet because of its similarity to more complex human cells. It is an amazing little microbe, which can also transform isolated nutrients into food by fermentation. It is the key to true food-based nutrition. 

So how to mimic nature and produce nutrients in a true food?

Scientists discovered that Saccharomyces cerevisiae - the food yeast which makes dough rise - works in a similar way to plant cells in the way it takes up nutrients, including minerals, and incorporates them into its cell structure by attaching them to amino acids, lipids or carbohydrates already inside the cell. 

Feeding Saccharomyces cerevisiae, with natural organic proteins and whole foods for optimum growth in a special fermentation process, allows the yeast to digest the protein and incorporate all the nutrients added into the mixture. Fermentation is a living process akin to growing a plant and needs nutrients, warmth and water, which takes place over a period of many hours. 

Once the growing phase is complete, the cell walls are broken down with fruit enzymes from pineapple and papaya to release the nutrients within each cell. 

This final step is important to aid digestion but most important for those of us who are sensitive to yeasts. The allergen in yeast, which causes the problem, is a protein on the cell wall. When this is broken down, the ability to evoke an allergic response is lost. 

The resulting ‘soup’ is then dried to a powder ready for tablet or capsule manufacture. This food contains all the nutrients from within the cell and is rich in B vitamins, beta glucans, inositol, choline, amino acids, glutathione and phytonutrients, which are naturally present in fermented yeast. 

But do they work? 

Because food production is such big business, this food-based nutrition has been much studied in farm herds. All show an increased bioavailability. 

These food yeasts are now routinely fed to cows, pigs, sheep and poultry as a nutrient-rich, natural feed often enriched with other nutrients. 

Observational studies show that animals fed this food-based nutrition grow and develop more quickly and are healthier than animals fed on isolated nutrient feed mixes. 

Selenium - the great protector. 

Selenium is an essential and powerful antioxidant mineral, which protects DNA from free radical damage, has an important role in immunity, thyroid and hormone production, and in maintaining healthy cholesterol balance. 

It protects the major organs of the body, especially the heart and eyes, from oxidative stress and works as an antioxidant in partnership with vitamin E to protect the heart. 

As part of glutathione peroxidise (antioxidant enzyme), it protects the body from environmental and dietary toxins, especially heavy metals such as mercury - making it an essential nutrient for anyone with mercury fillings in their teeth! 

It is important, too, for normal growth, male fertility, reproductive health and maintaining tissue elasticity.

Many studies show selenium supplementation is key to maintaining optimum health

All minerals come from the soil and are taken up by plants. They enter the food chain when eaten by animals and man alike.  The nutritional status of the soil which crops are grown in plays a huge role in the nutrient quality of the food we eat.  European soils are naturally low in selenium, compared to the selenium-rich soils of Canada and the USA.

When we joined the EU we altered our agricultural alliances and bought food crops from Europe rather than North America. The result was that selenium intakes in the UK plummeted. Consistently low levels of selenium intake are known to impact significantly on heart health, immunity and healthy pregnancies.

More and more studies using selenium-enriched food yeast suggest that supplementation is the key to maintaining optimum health into old age.

We probably all need more selenium than our food can provide. The effective way to make a difference to your selenium levels is to take selenium in a true food yeast form.  Selenium from yeast is twice as bio-available as inorganic selenium, so you do not need to take as much. It has also recently been approved by the EU for use in food supplements.

Co-enzyme Q10 cell power

Another important nutrient, which is more bio-available in a true food yeast is co-enzyme Q10.  Co-enzyme Q10 is a catalyst for metabolism, powering the cells of the body in a complex chain of reactions, which breaks nutrients down into energy nuggets, which the body can use.  It works alongside enzymes - hence the co-enzyme name - speeding up the metabolic process and maintaining healthy muscles, and is also involved in many other processes. It is found in every cell in the body and, not surprisingly, is especially abundant in the energy-intensive heart cells, helping the heart to beat thousands of times a day.

Like selenium, it has antioxidant properties and protects areas of rapid growth such as bone and gut cell renewal and gum regeneration. It has 10 times the antioxidant power of isolated Q10.  Co-Q10 levels diminish with age and in some disease conditions and, with that, energy and stamina levels can diminish.

In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Co-Q10 is attracted to the cell membrane and forms complexes with the lipid parts of the membrane. This is thought to be the reason for the higher bio-availability of Co-Q10-enriched yeast, compared to isolated Co-Q10.

Food based nutrition works, so look for these nutrients whenever you need to supplement your diet.


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