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Vegetables are losing their nutrients. Can the decline be reversed?

Now that isn't my headline. Sure it's something the health and holistic arena have been aware of (and indeed shouting about) for years, but today it's the first article which came up on my morning feed from The Guardian. You can read the full article here.

I wasn't planning on talking about this today (I wasn't planning on talking about anything work related today given that it's Easter!) but here we are.

I'm going to keep it brief as the article has an interesting 'let's bioengineer our way out of a situation that messing with the natural process of crop growth got us into in the first place...' slant, which frankly I've not had the time or energy to look into in the past half hour so this is an initial impressions, opinion piece for now.

Since the explosion of industrial farming, it seems our food quality has declined. Consider also that industrial livestock are fed from the same industrial food supply which makes it onto our shelves. So the nutrients you think you're getting from animal sources are actually likely to differ from expectation too.

The view most of us were raised with, if you eat real food you'll get all the vitamins and minerals you need, is now being shown to be inaccurate. Only time and research will show by how much.

Add into that the fact that modern life (stress, anxiety, eating on the run etc.), our modern environment (pollution, micro and nano plastics, pesticides, preservatives, flavour enhancers, artificial sweetners, xenoestrogenic home & body products) and many modern commonly prescribed medications (think PPI's, the oral contraceptive pill, painkillers and not to mention antibiotics), not to mention unchecked food sensitivities/intolerances can have a negative impact on the gut and your microbiome and you've got a recipe for potential malnutrition in a population with plenty to eat.

There are even genetic factors which can influence how well you absorb certain nutrients from certain foods. Some people are less able to absorb iron from plant sources, meaning that vegetarian and vegan diets aren't a great choice for them unless they're willing to supplement. Some people don't convert omega 3 fats as well from nuts and seeds meaning that algae or fish is the only way they will be effective at getting it in. That's just two of the first adaptations which spring to mind, there are lots more.

Supplements aren't all created equal either. Some will be better absorbed than others and this will depend on your gut and genetics as well as the ingredients in the supplement. Some have what we call excipients in them, they are generally used as bulking or binding agents and most people won't have issues with them, but they can cause problems for others. Others just won't use great forms of the vitamins e.g. cyanocolbalamin (a form of vitmain B12) which is cyanide bound to the colbalamin. Yes, cyanide. No, not generally problematic in that amount for most of the robustly healthy population. But honestly, with the workload my liver already has with living in the western world, I don't really want to add to its burdens with cyanide! I'd look for something with methylcolbalamin, adenosylcolbalamin or hydroxocolbalamin instead. Or spirulina. There's B12 in spirulina.

If you are able and have the space, there's never been a stronger arguement for growing as much of your own food as you can. Especially using organic, biodynamic or permaculture methods. We should be looking to nurture our soil as much as possible, replenishing what we can, where we can. Compost your waste, get a womery if you fancy! If you don't want to or can't grow your own, then buying organic wherever you can is better than not, and making sure you eat as wide a variety of herbs, plants, wholegrains and healthy fats as you can every week will still be the best thing you can do in the circumstances.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that your multivitamin (or any other vitamin you take) is just making expensive wee, show them the article from The Guardian and rest in the knowledge that at least you're more likely to be getting your vitamins than they are.

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