Micronutrients: the importance of supply to fight food shortage stress

The human body is a very complicated laboratory, within which millions of chemical reactions take place at every moment, in which substances meet each other, merging or dividing, giving rise to new compounds and the energy indispensable for the sustenance of the life of body. The set of all these reactions is called metabolism.

Metabolism takes place thanks to the intervention of macromolecules known as enzymes, which facilitate and speed up (catalyze) the metabolic pathways.

The metabolic pathways are chains of reactions developed during the evolution of organisms, useful for breaking down foods, consisting of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and micronutrients, with the aim of generating energy or functional substances for the sustenance of life.

Each of the stages of one of these metabolic pathways produces a small but specific chemical modification, usually the removal, transfer or addition of a specific atom or functional chemical group, generating a new molecule useful for life, defined product of reaction.

Proper functioning of enzymes depends on the availability of substrate and the availability of enzymatic cofactors. The substrate represents the starting molecule from which the chemical reaction begins, while the term enzymatic cofactor is defined as a chemical substance of a non-protein nature, essential for the correct functioning of the enzyme itself, which our body cannot produce, but must extract from the surrounding environment through the power supply.

Schematic representation of biochemical reaction:



The cofactors, also known as micronutrients, can be of different nature and therefore divided into metal cofactors (metal ions) and coenzymes (small organic molecules). There International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (from the English, international union of biochemistry and molecular biology, abbreviated as IUBMB) has compiled a complete list of cofactors necessary for the proper functioning of human enzymatic processes, here are some examples:

- Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
- Calcium (Ca)
- Cobalamine (vitamin B12)
- Coenzyme A (CoA)
- Iron (Fe)
- Flavin (vitamin B2)
- Glutathione (GSH)
- Potassium (K)
- Copper (Cu)
- Lipoic acid
- Magnesium (Mg)
- Manganese (Mn)
- Molybdenum (Mo)
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
- Sodium (Na)
- Nicotinamidadenindinucleotide (NAD)
- Selenium (Se)
- Thiamine pyrophosphate (vitamin B1)
- Zinc (Zn)

Cofactors are of fundamental importance for the proper functioning of the whole body, however their supply through food is often not sufficient. A block or incomplete development of metabolic processes would lead the body to work in a non-ideal condition and to approach a state of stress, with the risk of getting sick.

Unfortunately, current foods have a lot of calories but a very low nutritional power. Once upon a time it was enough to adopt a varied diet and eat a bit of everything, nowadays this indication is no longer true. Due to human intervention in the production of food, from the use of fertilizers, to the cultivation of hybrids and the harvest time which requires the products to be unripe and then ripen at the supermarket. This has caused a drastic reduction in the nutritional values of plants, the main natural sources of micronutrients: our food is now 10 times poorer than it was thirty years ago.

The modern environment, i.e. moving away from a natural lifestyle, nutrient deficiencies and toxic burden, contribute to the loss of these substances essential, biochemical balance and the increase in disease incidence.

A state of nutritional deficiency will cause the inability to reform tissues, regenerate the liver, repair lesions, produce hormones and all that infinite amount of substances such as antibodies, without a supply of the essential nutrients for functioning and self-repair. Just think that the daily requirement of an adult man of Vitamin C is about 6 grams, while the content of this vitamin in oranges (considering peel and seeds), is around 50 mg!

Stress and disease

The human body does not have a tendency to manifest diseases so suddenly. Instead, it tends to maintain a constant state of functioning called homeostasis. The organism of man and of all living beings is prone to balance itself in the best possible state of health.

Factors of a different nature can unbalance this condition and threaten our health. These are known as stressful factors which can be divided according to their nature:

- Biological (infections, micronutrient deficiency, lack of rest, dehydration);
- Chemicals (toxins, heavy metals);
- Mental (anxiety, grief, problems in life);
- Physical (cold, heat, radiation);
- Mechanical (impact, traction).

How does a stressor affect us negatively?

Stress originates from mental processes, in the sense that what disturbs us will go to stress the cerebral cortex and consequently the hypothalamus, which in turn will affect the pituitary gland. The pituitary, reached by the stimulus caused by the stressor, secretes the hormone ACTH (short for adrenocorticotropic), which will activate the other glands to produce other hormones (e.g. cortisol) which in turn will affect the cortex and hypothalamus again : the classic dog that eats its tail.

In the case of a perceived danger, the body releases cortisol and adrenaline, mainly, which increase blood perfusion in the heart, kidneys, muscles, brain and lungs. Stress is our body's hormonal response to a factor perceived as a threat to survival and alerts the body to fight or escape from danger.

Disease can develop from stress. In the presence of a continuous state of stress, our body is more prone to get sick than at other times, as the organism at that moment is deficient in immune defenses. For example, a stressful situation can trigger the activation ofCold sores. Better health makes our body more resilient. The body reacts to perceived stress and not to real stress. Often an exaggerated perception of stress is created.

Nutritional deficiencies and stress

Living on this planet in this age makes us all susceptible to a very specific stress that is at the root of the vast majority of chronic diseases. It is the stress due to the nutritional deficiencies of microelements that does not allow us to function in full efficiency. The lack of efficiency is automatically compensated for by the aforementioned stress hormones. An organism that functions under biochemical stress, instead of experiencing more energy during the day, experiences moments of tension that alternate with others in which it feels exhausted. Being exhausted does not mean being tired; fatigue passes after adequate rest while an exhausted person struggles to rest well and does not recover completely even after the rest itself. At the time of the resolution of this stress, through the administration of suitable food and of micronutrients missing, the body will try to restore a better state of well-being.

Through the automatic regulation that is carried out by the autonomic nervous system, in collaboration with the hormonal system, our body in normal conditions manifests greater efficiency and energy levels during the day, while in the evening it rests, digests, absorbs nutrients and repairs.

On the other hand, when the body suffers damage, through precise steps, it tries to restore normal function and reorganizes itself to better resist a similar effort in the future.

Any tissue, organ or the whole organism, after undergoing stress, goes through very specific healing phases.

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