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House Building Analogy of Essential Micronutrients

To start from the basics:

  • Our human bodies are made up of lots of cells – eye cells, skin cells, bone cells, etc.
  • These cells require nutrients, sourced from the diet, to carry out their daily functions, to grow and to replicate
  • Certain functions require very specific nutrients, such that if they aren’t available, the functions can’t be carried out

We can analogize this to the construction of a house. Each house is going to have a list of required materials that include:

  • Sand and cement, for concrete
  • Bricks
  • Glass windows
  • Roof tiles and wooden beams for the roof
  • etc

Some of these components are non-essential. For example, imagine you need a few different lengths of wood for the roof, and some smaller pieces don’t arrive. That’s okay, you can cut the bigger ones into smaller pieces and you’ve solved the problem.

However, imagine your glass windows don’t arrive… that’s a problem. That aren’t really any other materials you can substitute in their place.

There’s a similar thing going on with essential micronutrients and our cells.

For our cells to construct a protein, they need certain building blocks available.

One example are amino acids (which once chained together, we call protein). Some of the amino acids are essential, whilst others are non-essential. The essential ones we *have* to get from the diet, whilst the non-essential ones we can produce from other parts of our diet (most are synthesized from glucose).

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For humans there are approximately 40 essential micronutrients:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Amino Acids
  • Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Choline

For the specific breakdown of each category, see this post on Bruce Ames’ triage theory.

Triage theory is this idea, which was demonstrated via scientific experimentation, that our bodies will triage their use of essential micronutrients when they start to run low.

For example, imagine that you’re not getting much selenium in your diet. Selenium is needed to produce certain proteins in the body. If your body doesn’t have much selenium, then it will actually priortize using the selenium for proteins that are deemed more essential to survival and reproduction. Meaning that less essential proteins get de-prioritized. See this study for more details.

Round Up

  • The human body needs certain micronutrients like amino acids, vitamins and minerals in order to function.
  • Some mironutrients it can make (synthesize) from other things, whereas as micronutrients it *has* to get from the diet.
  • If it can’t get those micronutrients from the diet, certain cellular functions don’t take place. This can lead to premature ageing, as outlined in Bruce Ames’ Triage Theory (link).
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