Food is so plentiful that getting enough to eat seems assured. But because of the low quality of the diets and food so many people consume, most of us are deficient in at least some critical vitamins and minerals. As a result, the body, faced with shortages of key nutrients, quietly sacrifices long-term health for short-term survival. The result is age-related diseases like cancer, heart disease, immune dysfunction and cognitive decline.
Most of the world’s population, even in developed countries, has inadequate intake of one or more of the ~30 essential vitamins and minerals, mostly used as cofactors by the proteins/ enzymes of metabolism. A varied and balanced diet should provide enough vitamins and minerals; an unbalanced diet with too much refined food provides calories, but not enough vitamins and minerals. Triage theory posits that, as a result of recurrent shortages of vitamins and minerals during evolution, natural selection developed a strategic rationing response to moderate shortages so that the scarce vitamins and minerals are preferentially retained by vitamin and mineral dependent proteins that are essential for short-term survival and reproduction. In contrast, proteins needed for long-term health, which defend against the diseases associated with aging, are starved for the vitamins and minerals and thus are disabled. Moreover, since the damage from moderate deficiency is insidious, its importance for long-term health is not clinically apparent. Strong support for triage theory comes from the analyses of published data on proteins dependent on vitamin K and on selenium. Both of these vitamins and minerals have built into metabolism a triage-like trade- off between short-term survival and long-term health; each uses a different mechanism to accomplish this end. Mechanistic, genetic, and epidemiological evidence suggests that this metabolic trade-off accelerates aging-associated diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune dysfunction, and cognitive decline.
Those are the conclusions of researchers like Dr. Bruce Ames, emeritus professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Senior Scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and served on the board of directors of the National Cancer Institute.
Dr. Ames recently spoke at the Evening Lecture Series (video HERE) at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola. He was interviewed for WUWF by IHMC Communications Manager Carl Wernicke.