10 February 2010

Why modest shortages of vitamins / minerals matter so much

Dr Bruce Ames is Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, and a Senior Scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). His Curriculum Vitae reminds us of the importance of Dr Ames’ scientific experience and contributions, having published over 500 scientific journals, and gained long lists of honours and awards. 

Triage theory: short–term survival at the expense of long-term survival

In 2006, Professor Ames published a key article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), entitled ‘Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage’. Ames had become well aware that many micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) deficiencies are associated with chromosome breaks and cancer in humans,  such deficiencies having caused DNA damage in rodents or human cells in culture. It had also been established that chromosomal breaks cause early aging. As a result Professor Ames proposed that DNA damage and late onset disease are consequences of a ‘triage allocation mechanism’ developed during evolution to cope with periods of micronutrient shortage. 

In other words, micronutrients, when scarce, are used for short-term survival at the expense of long-term survival. 

In a September 2009 press release, from the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland, it was announced that ‘the theory explains why diseases associated with aging like cancer, heart disease, and dementia (and the pace of aging itself) may be unintended consequences of mechanisms developed during evolution to protect against episodic vitamin/mineral shortages’.

Why old people are susceptible to osteoporosis

A good example of Ames’ triage theory is demonstrated when calcium is released from the bones into the blood stream as a short–term survival response to reduce the metabolic overacidity caused by high protein intake. This ‘short term’ emergency measure taken by the body, often results in the long-term consequences of osteoporosis. Practitioners who use nutritional approaches have long recognised this consequence of a high protein diet, and this has been a persistent argument against the long term use of the popular high protein Atkins diet.

Professor Ames: triage theory is so important 

A look at Professor Ames ‘Research Interests’ page, on his website, reveals the importance he clearly places on this area of his life’s work so far.  

In an interview with Stephen Daniells, published on 9th February 2010 in Nutraingredients-USA.com, Professor Ames said that his ‘triage theory’ is ‘the most important thing I have ever worked on’, and that it ‘makes sense…  and is almost certainly going to be right’.

Theory gaining support 

Professor Ames’ theory that modest micronutrient inadequacy is behind the rise in chronic diseases is gaining support with a new analysis (the first of a series), co-authored by Dr Ames and Dr Joyce McCann. The article is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2009, and is entitled: ‘Vitamin K, an example of triage theory: is micronutrient inadequacy linked to diseases of aging?’.  In this work, the researchers test the basic premises of the triage theory.

A reviewer of the manuscript noted that “this review provides a unique perspective of consequences of vitamin K insufficiency and may serve as an important future reference, as new vitamin K dependent proteins are identified and new (non-clotting) functions of vitamin K are elucidated. More broadly, an assessment of micronutrient sufficiency from the perspective of triage theory may provide a valuable point of view, as current recommendations for nutrient intakes are reconsidered.”

In the light of the increasing weight being given to Professor Ames’ very credible theory, should Europe be planning to severely reduce our intake of micronutrients?

The second phase of the EU Food Supplements Directive: the setting of ‘Maximum Permitted Levels’ (MPLs) of vitamins and minerals is expected to be implemented this year, although serious doubts have already been cast over the methods being considered for this by the European Food Safety Authority, through the recent publication of a critical review just published in the scientific journal Toxicology. Lead author of the article, Robert Verkerk PhD, ANH International’s very own scientific and executive director, considers the proposed methods for determining ‘Maximum Permitted Levels’ as "fatally flawed". The paper reveals that proposed maximum amounts for some vitamins and minerals are so low they may even be exceeded in a single junk meal.

This being the case, and were such low levels to be adopted, it seems highly probable that, for much of the population of Europe, significant (or at best, modest) micronutrient deficiencies would ensue or continue. If the Professor Ames triage theory is correct, as looks increasingly likely, people’s short-term survival mechanisms would be operating at the expense of their long-term survival mechanisms, and it means that we could expect, in the future, to see no let up in the incidence of chronic disease, and early onset aging.

Taking further action

This is one of the reasons why it is so vital that we take action to prevent the setting of MPLs based on this flawed risk assessment. We at the ANH are taking all the action we can. One of the important things that concerned citizens of Europe can do, is to sign our important online petition for unfair EU restrictions on Vitamin and Mineral levels. 


How Much Should I Lift?


Once you know whether your main goal is hypertrophy (10-RM), strength/hypertrophy balance (5-RM), or strength and power (3-RM or 1-RM), knowing how much to lift is fairly simple.

Let’s assume you’ve chosen to train for a strength/hypertrophy balance (5×5, a basic beginner’s strength conditioning program).  After testing your 5-RM, you should begin your 5×5 workouts using 80% of your 5-RM.  For example, if you can strict press 100 lbs 5 times, then you will start with 5 sets of 5 reps using 80 lbs.

Using 80-90% of your RM is intense enough to encourage muscle growth and development, while at the same time is ‘easy’ enough to allow you to get enough training volume completed before exhaustion to maximize growth and at the same time maintain good form throughout the session.  The closer the weight you use approaches your RM, the more likely it is your form will begin to falter, and training with bad form not only decreases the efficiency of your training (good form is designed for economy of motion, i.e. proper form should allow you to handle heavier weights) but is also unsafe (proper form is also designed to ensure that you are not placing poorly leveraged loads onto the body that increase the chance of injury).

Knowing when you should raise the weight can be tricky, but here are two simple approaches that you can follow, the first one being a little more conservative than the second one.

1) On your last work set, rep out (i.e. do as many reps as you can until you fail or until your form gives out.  DO NOT continue lifting with bad form).  If you can do 2 or more extra reps, you might want to raise the weight next time.  If you can do 10-15 extra reps, you began too low and can raise the weight by quite a bit (you may want to test your RM again).  If you can’t get 2 extra reps, stay at that weight until you can.

2) When you can complete every rep you set out to complete (e.g. all 5 sets of 5), try raising the weight next time.  You may not make every rep in every set with the new weight, but just stay at the new weight until you can complete every rep in every set.

For upper body exercises, weight should be increased in 5 or 10 lb increments.  For lower body exercises, 10 or 20 lb increments are more appropriate.

During the first few months of training, it is common to make quite large jumps in your RMs, due to the quick learning of the nervous system, including improved muscle coordination during the lifts and improved firing of muscle fibers.  This is why you may underestimate your work sets during the initial stages of training, and may need to perform RM tests more frequently than you will later on once your nervous system plateaus.  Once this happens, the amount of weight you can add each session will decrease drastically.  Don’t get discouraged.  This is normal, and it’s now time for the muscles to start adapting ahead of the nervous system.  Muscle adaptation is slower than nervous system adaptation, and that is why your progression will begin to slow.  Be mentally prepared for this stage, and have realistic goals set to get you over this hump.

Finally, RECORD EVERYTHING! Improvement doesn’t always come as an increase in weight.  It may be that one week you make 20 out of 25 back squats at 225 lbs, and the next week you make 22.  Don’t overlook those small gains, as they are signs that you are improving.  Dedication and perseverance pay off, but you may miss it if you aren’t paying close enough attention.



Proteins are complex organic compounds. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids. They provide energy for the body. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a “macronutrient,” meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, which are needed in only small quantities, are called “micronutrients.” But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply.

Types of protein

Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids that join together to make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids can’t be made by our bodies, so these are known as essential amino acids. It’s essential that our diet provide these.

In the diet, protein sources are labeled according to how many of the essential amino acids they provide:

• A complete protein source is one that provides all of the essential amino acids. You may also hear these sources called high quality proteins. Animal-based foods; for example, meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese are considered complete protein sources.

• An incomplete protein source is one that is low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids.

  • Every function in the living cell depends on proteins.

  • Motion and locomotion of cells and organisms depends on contractile proteins. [Examples: Muscles]

  • The catalysis of all biochemical reactions is done by enzymes, which contain protein.

  • The structure of cells, and the extracellular matrix in which they are embedded, is largely made of protein. [Examples: Collagens]

(Plants and many microbes depend more on carbohydrates, e.g., cellulose, for support, but these are synthesized by enzymes.)

  • The transport of materials in body fluids depends of proteins. [Blood]

  • The receptors for hormones and other signaling molecules are proteins.

List of High-Protein Foods and Amount of Protein in Each


• Hamburger patty, 4 oz – 28 grams protein
• Steak, 6 oz – 42 grams
• Most cuts of beef – 7 grams of protein per ounce


• Chicken breast, 3.5 oz - 30 grams protein
• Chicken thigh – 10 grams (for average size) • Drumstick – 11 grams
• Wing – 6 grams
• Chicken meat, cooked, 4 oz – 35 grams


• Most fish fillets or steaks are about 22 grams of protein for 3 1⁄2 oz (100 grams) of cooked fish, or 6 grams per ounce • Tuna, 6 oz can - 40 grams of protein


• Pork chop, average - 22 grams protein
• Pork loin or tenderloin, 4 oz – 29 grams
• Ham, 3 oz serving – 19 grams
• Ground pork, 1 oz raw – 5 grams; 3 oz cooked – 22 grams • Bacon, 1 slice – 3 grams
• Canadian-style bacon (back bacon), slice – 5 – 6 grams

Eggs and Dairy

• Egg, large - 6 grams protein
• Milk, 1 cup - 8 grams
• Cottage cheese, 1⁄2 cup - 15 grams
• Yogurt, 1 cup – usually 8-12 grams, check label
• Soft cheeses (Mozzarella, Brie, Camembert) – 6 grams per oz • Medium cheeses (Cheddar, Swiss) – 7 or 8 grams per oz
• Hard cheeses (Parmesan) – 10 grams per oz

Beans (including soy)

• Tofu, 1⁄2 cup 20 grams protein
• Tofu, 1 oz, 2.3 grams
• Soy milk, 1 cup - 6 -10 grams
• Most beans (black, pinto, lentils, etc) about 7-10 grams protein per half cup of cooked beans • Soy beans, 1⁄2 cup cooked – 14 grams protein

• Split peas, 1⁄2 cup cooked – 8 grams

Nuts and Seeds

• Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons - 8 grams protein • Almonds, 1⁄4 cup – 8 grams
• Peanuts, 1⁄4 cup – 9 grams
• Cashews, 1⁄4 cup – 5 grams

• Pecans, 1⁄4 cup – 2.5 grams
• Sunflower seeds, 1⁄4 cup – 6 grams • Pumpkin seeds, 1⁄4 cup – 8 grams • Flax seeds – 1⁄4 cup – 8 grams


It’s recommended that 10–35% of your daily calories come from protein. Below is the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for different age groups.

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein

Grams of protein needed each day


Sports Nutrition - Protein

As Athletes in the Sport of life we all need protein primarily to repair and rebuild muscle that is broken down during exercise and to help optimizes carbohydrate storage in the form of glycogen. Protein isn’t an ideal source of fuel for exercise, but can be used when the diet lacks adequate carbo- hydrates or fat. This is detrimental, though, because if used for fuel, there isn’t enough available to repair and rebuild body tissues, including muscle. So having some Carbohydrate on board *the amount would be based upon you goals and metabolism or being Fat adapted ( low Carb diet) meaning your body has adapted to using fat as its primary energy source in the form of Ketones would be preferred. 

Recommended Protein Intake Chart