How I Know Your Kids Are Undernourished

Don’t your kids deserve the best?

Whether considering education, extracurricular opportunities or health, as parents we all strive to give our children as many advantages as we can muster. We know that our children’s success in the world is in part a function of our giving them the tools to be successful. This certainly applies to providing proper eating habits as well as age appropriate nutrition

NUTRITION IS A COMPLEX TOPIC

The problem we all face, is that few of us really understand what proper nutrition for our kids looks like – it is an incredibly complex topic and unless you are a trained nutritionist you probably are as lost on this topic as I was. For instance, who knows how many grams of whole grains is enough? Or how many servings of fruits and vegetables our kids are supposed to eat?   For that matter, when was the last time you actually counted the number of servings they received throughout the day, week or month? Or, exactly how big is a serving? Do you know the answers to any of these questions?

Many packaged food producers further confuse the landscape when they claim that eating one serving of their processed product is the equivalent of one serving of fruits or vegetables. You should be asking yourself how is this determined? Is it based on the fiber content, phytonutrient profile or some other measure?

Well, at least we can rely on good old fortified breakfast cereal and enriched bread to cover our children’s vitamin and mineral requirements, right? Before you jump to this conclusion it is imperative that you understand what “fortification” means in this context. First, when food ingredients are processed pretty much all of the micronutrients are stripped away or destroyed. The food industry had to figure out a way to add the nutrients back in a cost effective way and so that the nutritional profile would not degrade over time in their shelf stable product. The solution? Synthetic vitamins, of course (all of our needs served through a lab)!

SYNTHETIC VITAMINS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

Synthetic vitamins look chemically identical to naturally occurring vitamins but with one BIG difference – synthetics are completely isolated from the scores of bioflavonoids, carotenoids and other biologically active substances present in actual fruits and vegetables, all of which are thought to work in concert when processed by our bodies. These natural systems are extraordinarily complex and way beyond our current scientific capabilities to replicate in a lab.

Frankly, we really don’t understand the mechanics of nutrition very well at all because biological systems are so incredibly complex. The end result, though, is that not only is there a vast difference between synthetic Vitamin A and what you get from eating a carrot, but also synthetic vitamins can actually be harmful rather than helpful in large doses.

Don’t take my word for it, check out this link to the Linus Pauling Institute, one of the foremost research institutions on the subject of vitamins. Look specifically at the commentary about disease vectors and the impact of dietary vitamin intake (i.e. from fruits and vegetables) versus supplementation with synthetic vitamins. For instance, taking synthetic Vitamin A supplements is a bad idea when women are considering getting pregnant – this is the primary reason women taking retinol medications for skin conditions are advised to terminate the use of the medication prior to pregnancy, but no such restriction exists for dietary sources of Vitamin A.

Additionally, many synthetic vitamins do not provide the same level of bioavailability as the vitamin package you would get if you ate, say, an apple or raw broccoli, thus if your cereal box says 100% DV Vitamin E it is highly probable that you are receiving a benefit far less than that. The law only requires that the quantity of vitamins and minerals in the product be disclosed rather than what percentage is bioavailable. This is the single most troubling aspect of the vitamin supplement industry – a high percentage of the synthetic vitamins contained in multivitamin supplements are never absorbed. The same is true about most synthetic vitamins used to fortify processed foods.

CHANGE STARTS RIGHT HERE

So, what can we do knowing that our kids are probably not getting adequate nutrition (which, incidentally, is directly associated with a variety of negative health outcomes)? We MUST DEMAND that packaged food manufacturers start using nutrients from whole food sources – it is imperative to our children’s (and our own) long term health and wellness – we need to start a veritable nutrition revolution, a revolution that ENOF is prepared to lead.

An ever increasing percentage of consumers are spending more time reading nutritional labels. Help us give them some good news with continuing innovation in whole-food nutrition.

Mark Gillis
Founder and Chief Health Officer, ENOF