Maybe your family doctor or nutritionist talks about why vitamins and minerals are vital to your health. Somewhere in your life, someone may have suggested you take supplements. But why do we need micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)? And how do they affect our body?
The answers are not as simple as previously thought. The intake of vitamins and minerals can influence every person’s body differently. The answer lies within our genes, which we will talk about further in this article.
Why Do We Need Micronutrients-Macronutrients (What Are They?)
The key difference between macronutrients and micronutrients are precisely what their name suggests.
Macronutrients are those components in your diet which your body needs in large portions. We refer to them as “macro.” The nutrients that fall within this group include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each of the macronutrients plays a valuable role in your body function.
Carbohydrates are responsible for the supply of glucose, which breaks down into ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate), a form of energy used in cells. Unused glucose converts to glycogen, which stores in the liver for later use.
On the other hand, proteins break down into amino acids, and they are responsible for the primary structure of your body. We use amino acids in our body to build new proteins for cells and as an energy source.
Fats, though given a bad reputation by the media, are equally as important. Fats act as energy reserves, which we use during sleep, exercise, and to keep our body going between meals.
Micronutrients, on the other hand, are those quantities that you need to consume in small portions, which is why they are called “micro.” Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Although required in small quantities, micronutrients are also vital for your body to reproduce cells and other functions. The human body cannot produce these materials by itself.
Vitamins are organic compounds from animals and plants. Vitamins are broken down by air, heat, or acid. Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic materials and can be found in soil or water.
Different types of vitamins and minerals exist, and each plays a vital role in the optimization of your body. They are essential for your growth, brain development, and resistance to diseases.
Several studies revealed DNA and genes existent in our cells could have variations, and react differently to the intake of carbs, proteins, and fats. For example, several gene variations identified state that our body’s interaction with macronutrients could affect the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, the same applies for micronutrients as well – some of which are as follows.
How Micronutrients Depend on Genes
Vitamin C, known as ascorbic acid is one of the most crucial vitamins required in our body. An adequate level of Vitamin C is vital for the synthesis of several proteins, absorption of certain iron compounds, and the production of antioxidants.
We have identified several proteins that regulate the levels of vitamin C in our bodies. However, several gene variations have been discovered which can affect these proteins, and in turn, affect our Vitamin C levels.
For example, specific polymorphisms, or differences in a DNA sequence, in the SLC23A1 gene reduced the level of steady-state plasma ascorbate in our body significantly. Similarly, polymorphisms of the SVCT2 gene can enhance the role of vitamin C in the prevention of diseases such as glaucoma and certain cancers.
Vitamin D has one of the most abundant sources of all micronutrients – the sun! Standing in the sun exposes us to ultraviolet rays, which can produce vitamin D in our body. The consumption of foods such as liver, cheese, and egg yolks can also increase our Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is used to promote bone growth and prevent certain diseases.
However, not all people can process the same amount of vitamin D. A research project carried out in Denmark studied 25 genetic variations in 7 different genes along with the level of vitamin D in several human subjects. The results revealed that two protein-coding genes, CYP2R1 and GC, are associated with the presence of vitamin D in a person’s blood.
People with specific variants of vitamin D have lower levels of vitamin D and a negligible increase when exposed to UV rays in comparison to subject without the risk variants.
So your genes can tell us if you are prone to Vitamine D deficiency because your body does not absorb it well.
Folates are B-vitamins that are responsible for the production of red and white blood cells, the development of DNA and RNA, and the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. Folates are crucial to a healthy body.
However, genetic mutations of the MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene can lead to lower levels of folate in our blood. MTHFR mutation can lead to several physical and mental conditions that include but are not limited to depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases.
Iron helps transport oxygen through hemoglobin, a protein found in our blood. Iron is one of the most needed elements our body requires. Lack of iron can cause anemia, which is mostly influenced both by genetic and environmental factors.
Two variants in the transferrin (iron) gene and two in the HFE gene, can largely influence the risk of anemia for an individual. These two genes affect the transfer of iron in our system.
Studies show the presence of the minor allele in some variations of the transferrin gene reduces the rate of iron transport to tissues. On the other hand, other changes of the transferrin gene and minor alleles of HFE increase the rate of iron transport and therefore lower the risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Some bodies can absorb iron well, while others can not. Does your body tend to absorb iron well?
How Can You Know What You Absorb Well?
Here at DNA Is The Way, we have a DNA test that will focus on micronutrients and how your body absorbs them well. So you ask why can’t you go to the doctor for blood tests? Well, you can, but if you are not low on a vitamin or mineral, you may not show symptoms.
While you are not showing symptoms of a vitamin deficiency, your body is still suffering from the lack of what you do not absorb. So, if you are not having symptoms, your doctor can not do testing for all vitamins, as insurance has to have a reason to pay for that testing.
But if you had your DNA tested and your body tends not to absorb a particular mineral or vitamin, would your doctor then do the blood testing? He may be more likely to do so with the DNA proof that is unique to only you.
As a certified nutritionist, I can help you understand what foods are high in the vitamins you may not absorb well. With this information, you can increase your vitamin and mineral intake naturally.
I am sure there are many disease processes associated with the deficiency of vitamins and minerals that we are not aware of today. But with the increase of studies and the new DNA studies out there, we are making significant strides in this area.
We talked about essential micronutrients, and the relationship genetics has with them. We also discussed several other vitamins, like vitamins B and E, and minerals such as calcium, selenium, and zinc, are also affected by our genetic profile.
We now know that a better understanding of your genetics can help you determine your nutrient needs. One size does not fit all. So knowing your DNA profile can help you make better future dietary choices, and take you one step further towards a healthier life.
But wait one minute, that’s not all! I am a firm believer and have read the information that states a deficiency in some vitamins and minerals directly link to specific autoimmune diseases. How many of these links do we not know about yet? If you tend to be low in a particular vitamin but do not have any symptoms, however, does this make it OK? Your doctor can not test for vitamin deficiency if you don’t have symptoms, but can he check if your DNA says you may be low? It is worth a try and a thought that may help to solve an issue that you may have.
I don’t know this for sure, but in my nursing history, there are so many things we do not know about our bodies. But I do know that a simple DNA swab test may be the answer you search.
What are your thoughts on micronutrients and DNA testing? How do you feel about the breakthroughs in science that can help with the affects on disease? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your questions and comments in the comment section below.