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Minor Nutrient Deficiencies – Do They Accelerate Aging

The Triage Theory of Aging and Its Implications.

Dr. Bob Moroney wrote his book, Total Body Detoxification: The Way to Healthy Aging, to help those who want to implement a program to regain health or  stay healthy and be productive as long as possible. Dr. Bob’s research, which stemmed from his own health challenges, explores the wide spectrum of modalities and concepts that contribute to such a program. One of the most intriguing concepts he visits is Dr. Bruce Ames’€™ Triage Theory of Aging.

The term triage comes from emergency medicine and refers to the prioritizing and administering of medical aid to patients according to the seriousness of their illness or injury when resources are limited. Doctors must decide the order in which patients are treated to maximize the chances for all to survive. The Triage Theory of Aging posits that nutrient utilization in the body is rationed in a similar manner. If there is a moderate deficiency (limited resource) of one of the approximately 40 essential nutrients, the body prioritizes its allocation and utilization to meet reproductive and short-term survival needs first; all other functions (cellular repair, immunity, etc.) get what is left over. This ensures the survival of the species and the short-term survival of the individual ‘€“ but at the cost of long-term health.

Dr. Ames is a Senior Scientist and Director of the Nutrition and Metabolism center at Childrens Hospital Oakland Research Institute and a Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of California, Berkeley. He proposed this theory in response to observations that many micronutrient deficiencies are associated with chromosome breaks and cancer in humans. Chromosomal breaks cause early aging.

Micronutrient deficiencies have been viewed in our medical paradigm as significant only when severe enough to cause symptoms or disease ‘€“ such as excessive bleeding from lack of vitamin K, rickets from lack of vitamin D and scurvy from lack of vitamin C. While modest inadequacies of essential vitamins and minerals may seem to have no short-term negative effects and are not taken seriously enough by mainstream medicine, their cumulative long-term effects may explain the increasing incidence of chronic degenerative diseases in people who are living longer.

Dr. Ames has found support for his theory by evaluating research involving low levels of vitamin K and selenium. According to a paper published by Joyce C. McCann, Ph.D and Dr. Ames, when the body experiences low levels of vitamin K, the nutrient is primarily sent to the liver to ensure the normal clotting of blood, obviously necessary for immediate survival. Vitamin K’s use in other roles is restricted. Some of these other roles include the manufacture and maintenance of healthy bones, the prevention of calcification in coronary arteries, and protection against cancer. One can envision the possible long-term health consequences, such as poor bone health, heart disease, and cancer. Further support for his theory comes from a study of low levels of the nutrient selenium.

Do You Know If You Are Nutrient Deficient?

Severe nutrient deficiencies in the U.S. may be uncommon but not so for modest deficiencies, given the high processed-food intake and depleted nutrient content of food. A yearly visit to the doctor generally  does not address this kind of preventive asessment.

A diet of high quality foods is recognized as important in any health regime. Dr. Bob’s recommended program, which is one of education as well as specific recommendations, suggests other steps to be taken. For example, for a novice in the preventive arena of health he recommends finding a practitioner who can evaluate the body’s nutritional status through such techniques as blood, hair, and urine analyses, among others. As another example, it is important to develop reliable sources of information beyond conventional media coverage; one of Dr. Bob’s recommended resources is Life Extension magazine.

The Triage Theory of Aging makes logical sense. Deficiencies can come from insufficient intake due to diet; but also from improper absorption due to certain medical conditions, prescription drugs, stress, as well as advancing age. Whatever the route to take, does it not make sense to recognize and address the importance of adequate essential nutrient intake and utilization through diet, supplementation, stress management, and any other form it may take – for your future health?

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