The Chain of Life:
Essentials for Good Health
All the links within the "Chain of Life" are vitally important, even co-dependent. The basics of cellular nutrition comprise six nutrient groups that make up the "Chain of Life". Often when people use the term nutrition, they automatically think of vitamins. But many nutritional “links” are required to keep the “Chain of Life” strong — carbohydrates, protein, lipids/sterols, enzymes, minerals, vitamins and related food factors such as phytonutrients. If one link is weak, the overall “Chain of Life” can weaken as well. The result: the body’s metabolic machinery may not run as well as it should. Over time, health and vitality become compromised. The strength of one “link” in the “Chain of Life” often depends upon the strength of another “link”.
For example, before vitamins can be utilized efficiently in the body, minerals must be present. In fact, for optimum functioning throughout the body, all six nutrient groups must be present in sufficient quantities and in proper balance. The "Chain of Life" is vital for optimal cellular health.
Like the gasoline that keeps our cars running, carbohydrates are the fuel within the "Chain of Life". They keep our bodies running. Carbohydrates provide an inexpensive and readily-available source of energy to sustain life. Foods contain three basic types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber.
Using the “Chain of Life” let's look at Protein (a folded string of small chemical units called amino acids). The body breaks down dietary proteins into amino acid components and then combines and recombines them to produce the protein combinations needed to form cells, body tissues, enzymes, etc.
Of the 22 amino acids involved in human nutrition, 9 are termed “essential” because they cannot be made by the body and therefore must be supplied daily in the food we eat. The rest, which the body can synthesize, are called “non-essential”.
Protein accounts for about three-fourths of the dry matter in human tissues other than fat and bone. This “Chain of Life” link is a major structural component of hair, skin, nails, connective tissue, and body organs. It’s required for practically every essential function in the body.
Although enzymes are proteins, they have their own "link" within the "Chain of Life". Enzymes speed up biochemical reactions while remaining unchanged in the process. The body cannot carry out chemical reactions at body temperature without their help. Without these biological catalysts, chemical reactions would occur so slowly that life as we know it could not exist. With them, these chemical reactions can occur at rates as much as 10 billion times faster.
Enzymes are critical to digestion and metabolism. Just as keys are necessary to unlock doors, enzymes are required to release nutrients from foods so they can be absorbed and utilized by the body. If enzymes are not present in sufficient quantities, complete digestion cannot take place. Enzymes also keep the body’s metabolic “machinery” running smoothly. In turn, vitamins and minerals are essential for proper enzyme functioning.
Vitamins are substances (derived from plants and animals) which are required in small amounts for normal body function. This part of the "Chain of Life" provides nutrients that the body can only obtain by outside sources. With few exceptions, the body cannot manufacture them, so they must be ingested in foods or supplements on a regular and continuous basis.
They are either water-soluble (B-complex vitamins, vitamin C) or fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K). The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) tells us the vitamins and minerals that we need on a daily basis. Deficiencies can result due to insufficient vitamins and minerals in our food, poor absorption and/or increased physical or emotional stress.
Phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) are necessary for optimal health. They include carotenoids from carrots, tomatoes, spinach, and other foods; flavonoids from grapes, berries, teas, etc.; cruciferous compounds from broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other cruciferous vegetables; sulfur-bearing compounds from garlic and onions; mucopolysaccharides from Aloe Vera; isoflavones from Soybeans — the list goes on and on. Some phytonutrients, for instance, are potent antioxidants. Others boost the production of enzymes that detoxify dangerous substances.
Similar to vitamins, minerals are absolutely critical for normal body function. The "Chain of Life" would not be complete without them. Minerals make up 4-5% of our body weight and are present in the body in large amounts as “macro minerals” such as calcium, chlorine, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and sulfur, or in minute quantities as “micro minerals” or “trace minerals” such as chromium, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. Important building blocks of bones, teeth, soft tissue, muscle, blood, and nerve cells, minerals are crucial to muscle response, nervous system communication, digestion, metabolism, and production of hormones and antibodies. They regulate the balance of water, acids, bases, and other biologically important substances in the body, and are crucial components of our enzyme systems.
Though all minerals have their origins as components in earth, soil, and rock, some are bound within living organisms. Both earth-sourced minerals and those sourced from living organisms are found in our food supplies. In general, the body does not absorb minerals efficiently. As mentioned above, vitamins and minerals work better when taken in combination rather than alone.
Lipids and sterols are fats which are essential to life. This "link" within the "Chain of Life" supplies the needed nutrients to the cellular walls. They provide energy and house fat-soluble vitamins and many phytonutrients. Phospholipids are structural components of cell membranes, emulsifiers, and precursors of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. Other lipids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential to health, playing roles in brain development and controlling inflammation. Sterols are a class of lipids which include precursors of certain hormones, cholesterol (a component of all animal cell membranes), and precursors of vitamin D. Together, lipids and sterols make up most of the two-layered “blanket” that surrounds every cell in the body. They are especially important components of the fatty tissues of the nervous system.
Without properly balanced lipid/sterol levels, cells can become malnourished, which can lead to cellular fatigue. Lipids and sterols play a vital role in the assimilation of nutrients by the
cell. If cells are unable to assimilate the nutrients they need, no amount of available nutrients will result in optimal nutrition. Likewise, unbalanced lipids/sterols may suppress endocrine gland function, further contributing to fatigue.
While all cell membranes need fats, not all fats are created equal. There are good fats and bad fats. For example, saturated fats, such as those in beef and butter, have more rigid cellular “building blocks” than unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids. Many scientists believe that membranes built with more pliable building blocks may be better able to retain their elasticity and their discretionary power to let in the good substances and keep out the bad.
The only way to optimal health would be to have all "links" within the "Chain of Life" exist in balance in our systems.
How strong are the links in your nutritional "Chain of Life"?
Most nutritionists would agree that if we had the time to plan, prepare, and eat three complete meals a day, we would be able to satisfy the requirements for a strong “Chain of Life.” All the "links" within the "Chain of Life" are possible to obtain through proper diet. The problem is that few of us have the knowledge or the time necessary to ensure proper nutrition. As a result, we have no way of knowing just how strong the links are in our nutritional “Chain of Life.” For millions of people around the world, nutritional supplementation provides the assurance that all of the body’s nutrient requirements are being met daily.
Despite our best intentions, dietary gaps are a fact of life that weaken the “links” within our own “Chain of Life”. Smart supplementation can help fill nutritional gaps. Look for quality products that are carefully formulated to strengthen all the "links" within the "Chain of Life". This would allow anyone to achieve and maintain optimal health and vitality. It is a way to assure that your nutritional “Chain of Life” is as strong as it can be. More than just vitamins and minerals are needed. Quality supplements provide a balance of essential nutrients to help you take charge of your health! Please remember supplementation allows anyone to manage their nutrient intake in a simple and effective way for long term optimal health without increasing their caloric intake.
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