Nutrients are generally all substances needed by the human body for normal development and maintenance of health. In addition, the term refers to two groups of different food components: First, there are the macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins (proteins) and lipids (fats). However, these macronutrients can only be processed and utilized in the cell if the diet contains additional nutrients, the so-called micronutrients.
What counts for micronutrients?
The micronutrients include vitamins (vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K), minerals (such as calcium or magnesium), trace elements (eg iron, zinc, selenium and manganese), phytochemicals (carotenoids, flavonoids) , essential fatty acids (especially fish oils) and amino acids - substances that are vital to the body and protect against free radicals.
Micronutrients, in contrast to macronutrients, are substances that the metabolism of living organisms has to absorb in the diet without supplying energy themselves. They serve, for example, for the construction of macromolecules or as a cofactor for essential enzyme reactions. Other micronutrients have antioxidant activity.
Although micronutrients are needed only in very small amounts, they are one of the essential nutrients. Without them, many normal functions such as growth or energy production could not take place. Lack of one or more of these substances, deficiency symptoms develop, which can lead to death in extreme cases.
Micronutrients in food
Fruits and vegetables contain many micronutrients - but unfortunately only in the freshly harvested state. Transportation, storage, preservation and cooking destroy many of these valuable micronutrients. For example, a lettuce can lose up to 60 percent of vitamin C within three days, spinach up to 95 percent. The daily intake of micronutrients is therefore usually insufficient.
In addition, there are phases or situations in life in which supplementation with micronutrients is recommended, as in various diseases or in pregnancy. Not only the sick, but also the healthy can have a deficit of micronutrients due to a special life situation, which has to be filled up. And they can also benefit from it in the future, if they provide for an optimal balance.
Numerous studies show that the risk of chronic diseases is related to blood levels of various antioxidants and B vitamins. Thus, sufferers often have significantly lower serum or plasma micronutrient levels compared to healthy controls.
The intake of micronutrients should not be uncontrolled, but should be monitored by professionals. Much does not always help a lot, because the unreflected intake of vitamins and minerals in too high a dose can even be harmful. However, it is often worse to take too little micronutrients.
Micronutrients for supplementation
Micronutrients as a nutritional supplement only make sense if they have been put together individually, dosed correctly and are in a usable state. In modern medicine, standard or mono-preparations, such as sole calcium or magnesium, vitamin C or vitamin E as individual substances are critically evaluated. Rather, micronutrients must be combined and tailored to individual needs using questionnaires, urine, saliva samples or blood tests.
Meaningful questionnaires take into account not only the blood values (sugar, cholesterol, uric acid), but also other factors such as age, body weight, leisure time, occupational stress, eating habits, illnesses, special medication intake, etc. The laboratory analyzes go far beyond the usual standard examinations that are normally carried out at the doctor's.