Scott W. Tunis MD FACS |
Before we consider the answer to that question, we need to define the term “vitamin deficient”.
Vitamin deficiencies can be absolute, wherein there is a complete lack of an essential vitamin in the diet, or partial, wherein there is a relative lack of of an essential vitamin in the diet.
An absolute deficiency of any one of the 13 essential vitamins causes clinical disease with an identifiable syndrome of symptoms and signs. Absolute vitamin deficiencies are lethal in 90-120 days. That’s why they are called essential vitamins.
You may be surprised to discover that as recently as between 1900 and 1940 in the United States there were approximately 300,000 cases and 100,000 deaths from Vitamin B3 (Niacin) deficiency. The disease is called pellagra.
Fortunately, absolute vitamin deficiencies are a thing of the past in developed countries where food is abundant. An abundance of food high in simple carbohydrates and lipids, however, has led to other problems in developed countries, particularly in Western society. Let’s face it… our highways, shopping centers and neighborhoods are not exactly teeming with fresh fruit, vegetable, and whole grain stands.
Even if we are highly motivated to eat healthy and nutritious diets, too often our unyielding schedules, our commitments to family, faith and work, and our sometimes limited dietary options can cause our diet to be low in essential vitamins.
Which brings us to the definition of “partially vitamin deficient”.
The human body cannot store most essential vitamins. What you ate yesterday is gone today. 24 hours, that’s it. So, in order for your essential vitamin tank to be full every day, you need to consume 100% of the Daily Value every day. That’s why it’s called a Daily Value.
A partial vitamin deficiency means your level is below optimal, and this type of deficiency is actually quite common in the United States. Iron deficiency anemia has been estimated to be present in approximately 30% of young adults and 50% of reproductive age women. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey performed by the CDC found that the prevalence of mild deficiencies in vitamin B6 and and B12 in the US population were 10% and 4% respectively.
If you under physically and mentally stressful conditions you will have higher requirements for obvious reasons. Just as you need more calories, you will need more nutrients as well. The Daily Value (DV) published by the Food and Drug Administration is for the “average person”.
We’ve all have bad days where we don’t “have it”. That’s life. But on the days you “feel fine” do you think you can tell when your physical and mental performance is reduced by 10% as a result of sub-optimal nutrition? How about 5%… or 2%? Almost certainly not. And while some of the factors that can subtly hinder your performance are beyond your control, nutritional and vitamin status is not one of them.
Suppose you are going off-grid on a hiking and camping trip and you know it will be challenging on many levels. You make all the necessary preparations. You pack all your supplies. You plan on spending time away from work. You’ve spent money for the best equipment. And you’re excited to take on the challenges ahead of you. Do you really want to face your challenges at 95% of your real capabilities?
You may “feel just fine”.
But if you want be at your physical and mental best then provide your body’s metabolic engine with 100% of the essential vitamins it needs for peak performance.