One might expect that diets in affluent industrial nations would also be nutritionally affluent, but this is not the case. Even though we have the necessary technology, money is not usually a problem, and we have both time and choices, over 60% (and rising) of North American people get less than the recommended amounts of one or more essential nutrients.
Let me list some statistics on North American nutrient status. Two government surveys, known as the Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES, 1971-1974) and the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (NFCS, 1977-1978), measured intake of 13 of about 45 essential nutrients in tens of thousands of people. Of the 13, only sodium was present in adequate amounts (actually, many people suffer toxic symptoms from an excess of sodium resulting from the overuse of table salt). They found the following percentages of people getting less than the government-set Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which was defined as the amount of an essential nutrient that is sufficient to keep most normal healthy adults from developing deficiency symptoms.
Vitamin B1 45%
Vitamin B2 34%
Vitamin B3 33%
Vitamin B6 80%
Vitamin B12 34%
Vitamin A 50%
Vitamin C 41%
The authors of these official surveys say that there is no cause for concern until intake of nutrients is down to seven-tenths of the RDA. This lower measure reduces the apparent incidence of deficiency, but those who think that optimums for health are far higher than the RDA strongly disagree. Statistics on food-related degenerative conditions also indicate that there is a high percentage of people that are deficient.
Clinicians observing smaller numbers of people ‘unofficially’ estimate the incidence of deficiency of other nutrients as:
Vitamin D 10%
Vitamin E 20-40%
Vitamin K 15%
Pantothenic acid 25%
Deficiencies of essential nutrients may be due to many causes, including:
- poor food choices
- poor digestion
- poor absorption
- food allergies
- intestinal injuries
- imbalances in bowel flora
- drug interferences with metabolic processes
- increased nutrient requirements for drug detoxification
- increased requirements due to genetic, congenital, life-style, athletic performance, and environmental conditions
Deficiencies of the remaining essential nutrients are not likely to be widespread. However, deficiencies of some important non-essential substances necessary for health are widespread, in part due to deficiencies of essential nutrients necessary for their manufacture (hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes), or because of a lack of fiber in refined diets, or due to use of drugs and poor bowel hygiene that destroy friendly bacteria.