We hold our own destiny three times a day in the choices we're making - when we're sitting down to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner
William Li, M.D.
As discussed previously, a large portion of adults in the United States are considered overweight or obese. When majority of people pursue their weight loss goals, they often attempt fad diets which promise the greatest results in the shortest amount of time. However, fad diets are often extremely restrictive and can leave large nutritional gaps, which when not addressed can result in a diminished state of health.
Although macronutrients are a large portion of daily consumption which are necessary for energy production and cellular functioning, micronutrients are often overlooked and underrated. They play a large role in essential functions and are only needed in small amounts.
Simple deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D can have minor to devastating effects from symptoms such as weak or soft bones, to serious conditions like breast, colon and prostate cancer.
The Best Examples of Micronutrients and Their Benefits
While neither vitamins nor minerals, the following micronutrients are all essential in unique ways and are therefore also deserving of attention when it comes to pursuing weight loss and optimizing overall health:
- Asparagine – eliminates waste created during the breakdown of proteins
- Glutamine – acts as building block for protein synthesis, and is essential for immune health
- Serine – essential for brain and central nervous system functioning
- Oleic Acid – helps reduce disease risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure
- Alpha Lipoic Acid – beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes, helps reduce blood pressure
- Coenzyme Q10 – improve immune function, combat chronic fatigue, and lower high cholesterol
- Cysteine – essential for detoxification and metabolic functioning
- Glutathione – reduce oxidative stress and damage
- Selenium – helps combat free radicals, and defend against heart disease and cancer
- Chromium – important in the fight against diabetes by reducing insulin resistance
- Choline – crucial for DNA synthesis
- Inositol – used for nerve pain, panic disorders and other neurological issues
- Carnitine – plays a role in energy production
Essential Amino Acids
The following amino acids play critical roles in optimize your health including:
- Eliminating waste
- Acting as a building block from protein synthesis
- Assisting in immune function
- Reducing disease risk
- Participating in the production of energy
This non-essential amino acid is involved in the biosynthesis of glycoproteins. It also carries and aids in the elimination of ammonia, which is a waste product created during the breakdown of proteins to amino acids. A deficiency is rare in individuals with normal eating patterns, and the only true deficiency is genetic and known as Kegg disease.
As an amino acid, it can be found in almost any food containing proteins such as:
Glutamine is an amino acid produced by the body but also found in abundance in foods. It is a multifaceted amino acid in that it acts as a building block in protein synthesis but is also critical for immune function and digestive health. It can be taken as a supplement as well but should be taken with the amino acid L-Alanine to avoid being broken down completely by the stomach.
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Glutamine can be found in:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Fermented foods
An amino acid synthesized from other amino acids, glycine or threonine, serine is essential for the biosynthesis of purines and pyrimidines and acts as a precursor to other amino acids. It is essential for proper brain and central nervous system functioning as it helps to form the phospholipids needed for cell creation. A deficiency is a result of a neurometabolic disorder that affects the synthesis of serine itself.
Foods dense in serine include:
- Carob seeds
A non-essential fatty acid, oleic acid is linked to reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. It may also improve mood, slow aging, and potentially aid in cancer prevention. Oleic acid may also aid in controlling inflammation and pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, as well as chronic nerve pain. Because it is prevalent in western diets, a deficiency is quite rare. In fact, there is a concern over consuming too much oleic acid. The body needs to maintain a balance of omega 3, 6, and 9 acids, and too much oleic acid can significantly increase omega 9s, thereby impacting the ratio. An imbalance could contribute to a number of diseases, and too many omega 9s could lead to a deficiency in the other conditionally essential fatty acids (3 and 6).
This monosaturated fat is found primarily in:
Cysteine is a non-essential amino acid containing sulfur. It can be used to form taurine or cystine. It is involved in protein synthesis, detoxification, and a host of other metabolic functions. Cysteine crosslinks proteins (making them more rigid) and helps to protect against protein breakdown when necessary. Deficiencies are identified as inherited metabolic disorders, which are typically associated with impaired antioxidant defense, decreased ability to metabolize drugs and toxic compounds, and depressed immunity.
The nutrient is found in:
- Sunflower seeds
This nutrient is an amino acid with a primary function of transporting fatty acids to be broken down for energy in the mitochondria. Carnitine supplementation is useful in individuals with deficiencies. With that said, deficiencies are extremely rare so it isn’t necessary for most people to supplement with carnitine. Although carnitine supplementation is deemed unnecessary unless there is a deficiency, it may be useful for increasing androgen receptor sensitivity (Carnitine Tartrate) and improving cognitive function (Acetyl-L Carnitine).
Carnitine is found in:
- Some vegetables
The Benefit of Antioxidants as a Micronutrient
These antioxidants or micronutrients with strong antioxidant properties are beneficial for weight loss and optimize overall health, as benefits can include:
- Lowering blood sugar
- Treating blood pressure and heart failure
- Improving immune function
- Reducing oxidative stress and damage
Alpha Lipoic Acid
An antioxidant that has shown to be beneficial in lowering blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, alpha lipoic acid also reduces symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Due to its strong antioxidant properties, it may also deliver benefits in terms of reducing inflammation and decreasing hepatic fibrosis, though it is not commonly used for either.
It can be found in foods such as:
Although alpha lipoic acid is found in some food, it is most commonly taken as a supplement.
This micronutrient is a naturally-occurring nutrient with strong antioxidant properties. It is regarded as beneficial in treating high blood pressure and heart failure. Coenzyme Q10 can also improve immune function in immune disorders, improve symptoms such as chronic fatigue, and lower high cholesterol. Symptoms of an acute deficiency include muscle or joint pain and frequent headaches. The symptoms of a chronic deficiency can resemble those seen in heart failure.
The nutrient can be found in:
- organ meats
It is also taken as a supplement and is best taken with fats as it is a fat-soluble nutrient.
This antioxidant encompasses three amino acids: cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. It is made in the body but declines naturally as a result of stress, age, and exposure to toxins. Interestingly, one of its greatest abilities is its power to reduce oxidative stress and damage. While it can be found in a few foods containing sulfur, including broccoli and cauliflower, it is also effective to supplement in the diet. One way to supplement for this antioxidant is to take N-Acetyl Cysteine, as it acts as a precursor to glutathione production in the body.
Another antioxidant that helps to reduce oxidative stress, selenium also fights free radicals and may help defend against heart disease and cancer. Selenium is also needed for thyroid and immune functioning as well. A deficiency is primarily observed in the thyroid and manifests as symptoms of hypothyroidism including fatigue, mental slowing, goiter, cretinism, and recurrent miscarriage. If ingesting too much, toxicity is possible and can lead to nausea, vomiting, hair loss, nail discoloration, irritability, and “garlic breath.”
It can be found in:
- lean meats
Other Essential Micronutrients for Optimizing Health
Although these micronutrients are neither antioxidants nor amino acids, they play a critical role in:
- Reducing insulin resistance
- DNA synthesis
- Treatment of nerve pain and neurological issues
A mineral required in trace amounts, chromium reduces insulin resistance and is directly involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. A deficiency impairs the body’s ability to use glucose and raise insulin sufficiently. Deficiencies are very rare, as it is found in many food sources including:
It is also available as a supplement but should not be taken in excess, as it could lead to low blood sugar, gastrointestinal distress, and potentially even kidney or liver damage.
Choline is a water-soluble nutrient and is a source of methyl groups needed for metabolic processes. It is used to create phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, two major phospholipids, which are major components of cell membranes. Choline is also needed for DNA synthesis as well as homocysteine reduction (homocysteine buildup is seen in the serious condition, liver cirrhosis). Inadequate choline intake may lead to fatty liver, a precursor to cirrhosis or death. Choline can be found in:
- cruciferous vegetables
- Various supplements
Some forms of choline can have a profound effect on neurological functioning as they increase levels of acetylcholine, which functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain.
Mainly used to treat nerve pain or panic disorder and other neurological issues, this nutrient has a host of cognitive benefits. It is a vitamin-like substance found in plants and animals, but it can also be produced synthetically. Inositol can be commonly found in many types of:
- Leafy greens
- Whole grains
Although it has many different benefits, among its most notable strengths is its abilities to reduce anxiety and address mental health issues by balancing chemicals leading to mental health conditions. While deemed safe, it does carry potential side effects including nausea, tiredness, headaches, and dizziness.
How Cenegenics Micronutrient Testing Can Make the Difference You Need
With so many different micronutrients – and their respective roles – to consider, it’s easy to see how deficiencies could be impacting your health. Unfortunately, these deficiencies are very hard to detect and pinpoint without specific testing.
Whether it is in your quest to lose weight or to simply become healthier, in many cases the smallest factors can make the biggest difference. That’s precisely why Cenegenics offers micronutrient testing that encompasses all of the nutrients listed above. In addition, we also measure fructose sensitivity, glucose-insulin metabolism, total antioxidant functioning, and immune response score through SpectraCell to determine if there are any other underlying barriers impeding your journey towards optimal nutrition.
Upon taking the test, you will be paired with a Cenegenics physician who can go over your results in detail and develop a plan to correct and account for any deficiencies that are present. A noticeable improvement could be made by simply changing some aspects of your diet or adding supplements to make up for missing nutrients. Whatever the case, you can’t identify any potential gaps in your diet without help. Take the first step in becoming a healthier version of yourself today – contact your nearest Cenegenics location to get started.
Next Steps to Schedule Your Micronutrient Food Allergy Test
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About the Contributor
Austin Zechman MS, CSCS
Nutrition & Exercise Counselor at Cenegenics Dallas
Originally from Pennsylvania, Austin has a Bachelor’s degree in health science from Lock Haven University and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science from Bloomsburg University. He has completed Strength and Conditioning Internships at Pennsylvania State University and the University at Buffalo working with multiple sports teams including football. His research interests are different nutritional concepts, training methods, and supplements.
This guide was produced with contributions from the following key resources:
The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation
The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 1: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy
Jeffrey Park Leake, M.D., CPT
Dr. Jeffrey Park Leake is a Partner and Director of Education at Cenegenics Elite Health specializing in age management and wellness. Having trained hundreds of physicians worldwide, Dr. Leake is also the Director of Education for the Clinical Strategies for Healthy Aging course at AMM Educational Foundation.
Todd David Greenberg, M.D., CSCS
Dr. Todd Greenberg is a practicing physician with a broad range of expertise, including wellness, exercise, sports injuries, and MRI of sports injuries. He is a Radiology Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington.