Essential Nutrients in the Diet

Howard Hughes, the multi-billionaire, died of malnutrition. In his later years, Hughes became paranoid of germs and would not eat. When Hughes died at age 70, he was only recognizable through his fingerprints. While over 1 billion people in the world are obese, 800 million are in the death grips of starvation.

92% of Americans do not get the RDA for the established essential nutrients. All of this is malnutrition. And once a person gets diagnosed with cancer, malnutrition becomes much more common and lethal. Malnutrition can be defined as an excess, deficiency, or imbalance of any given nutrient. In general, Americans eat too much, too often, and the wrong foods. And these mistakes in eating are killing more people than all wars combined.

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Essential Nutrient Deficiencies

There are many reasons for developing malnutrition:

  • We don’t eat well due to poor food choices, loss of appetite, discomfort in the gastrointestinal region, or consuming nutritionally bankrupt “junk food”; many people just don’t get enough nutrients into their stomachs.
  • We don’t absorb nutrients due to loss of digestive functions (including low hydrochloric acid or enzyme output), allergy, “leaky gut”, or intestinal infections, like yeast overgrowth.
  • We don’t keep enough essential nutrients due to increased excretion or loss of nutrients because of diarrhea, vomiting, or drug interactions.
  • We don’t get enough essential nutrients due to increased requirements caused by fever, disease, alcohol, or drug interactions.
  • Anyone who is confused about why we spend so much on medical care with such poor results in cancer treatment might glean some wisdom by reading what sells best in American grocery stores.
  • Overwhelming evidence from both government and independent scientific surveys shows that many Americans are low in their intake of: 1

    VITAMINS: A, D, E, C, B-6, riboflavin, folacin, pantothenic acid

    MINERALS: calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, chromium, selenium; and possibly molybdenum and vanadium. With many common micronutrient deficiencies in the Western diet, it makes sense that a major study in Australia found that regular use of vitamin supplements was a protective factor against colon cancer. 2 Resolve magnesium deficiencies

    MACRONUTRIENTS: fiber, complex carbohydrates, plant protein, special fatty acids (EPA, GLA, ALA), clean water.

    Meanwhile, we also eat alarmingly high amounts of: fat, salt, sugar, cholesterol, alcohol, caffeine, food additives, and toxins.

This combination of too much of the wrong things along with not enough of the right things has created epidemic proportions of degenerative diseases in this country. The Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control, National Academy of Sciences, American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association, and most other major public health agencies agree that diet is a major contributor to our most common health problems, including cancer.

Ancestral Diet – Hunter Gatherers

Americans have deviated so far from our ancestral diet as to be laughable. Drs. Shostak, Eaton, and Connor studied the diets of indigenous people around the world, those not influenced by processed foods. They published their findings as the “paleolithic diet” in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine and a book. Our hunter-gathered ancestors ate less sodium (salt), more potassium (from plant food), more calcium (from bones), much more fiber (from plant foods), much more vitamin C (from plant foods), no refined carbohydrates (from white flour and sugar), and more protein (from free range animals, high in essential fats).

Typical Western Diet

The typical diet of the cancer patient is high in fat, while being low in fiber and vegetables–“meat, potatoes, and gravy” is what many of my patients lived on. Data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture from over 11,000 Americans showed that on any given day:

  • 41% did not eat any fruit
  • 82% did not eat cruciferous vegetables
  • 72% did not eat vitamin C-rich fruits or vegetables
  • 80% did not eat vitamin A-rich fruits or vegetables
  • 84% did not eat high fiber grain food, like bread or cereal 3

Essential Nutrients and Metabolic Disease

At the world-famous San Diego Safari Park, experts spend an incredible amount of time and money replicating the diet of that animal in its native environment, because that’s how you keep the animals healthy. Humans ignore this obvious link to our ancestral past. Not surprisingly, 88% of Americans suffer from some metabolic disease, often due to malnutrition.

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The human body is incredibly resilient, which sometimes works to our disadvantage. No one dies on the first cigarette inhaled, or the first drunken evening, or the first decade of unhealthy eating. We misconstrue the fact that we survived this ordeal to mean we can do it forever. Not so. Malnutrition can be as blatant as the starving babies in third world countries, but malnutrition can also be much more subtle.

SEQUENCE IN DEVELOPING NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY
1) Preliminary.  Reduction of tissue stores and depression of urinary excretion.
2) Biochemical.  Reduction of enzyme activity due to insufficient coenzymes (vitamins).  Urinary excretion at minimum levels.
3) Physiological.  Behavioral effects, such as insomnia or somnolence.  Irritability accompanied by loss of appetite and reduced body weight.  Modified drug metabolism and reduced immune capabilities.
4) Clinical.  Classical deficiency syndromes as recognized by the scientific pioneers in the developmental phases of nutrition science.
5) Terminal.  Severe tissue pathology resulting in imminent death.

Essential Nutrients Missing in Western Diet

While there are 118 elements in the periodic table, or the building blocks of the planet earth and you, about 83 of these are considered essential/useful for human or plant health. Yet only 3 of these elements (Nitrogen, potassium K, Phosphorus) are added to the soil in agribusiness. There has been a dramatic decline in the essential mineral content of food grown on American soil due to this bad math. Americans are deficient in magnesium, selenium, chromium, vanadium, lithium, strontium, and more. Malnutrition at macro and micro levels can lead to cancer. Restoring human health requires attention to the missing essential nutrients in the Western diet.

It was the Framingham study done by Harvard University that proclaimed: “Our way of life is related to our way of death.” While many Americans are overfed, the majority are also poorly nourished. If proper nutrition could prevent from 30 to 90% of all cancer, then doesn’t it seem foolish to continue feeding the cancer patient the same diet that helped to induce cancer in the first place?

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Malnutrition Among Cancer Patients

From 25-50% of hospital patients suffer from protein calorie malnutrition. Protein calorie malnutrition leads to increases in mortality and surgical failure, with a reduction in immunity, wound healing, cardiac output, response to chemo and radiation therapy, and plasma protein synthesis, and generally induces weakness and apathy. Many patients are malnourished before entering the hospital, and another 10% become malnourished once in the hospital.

Nutrition support, as peripheral parenteral nutrition, has been shown to reduce the length of hospital stay by 30%. Weight loss leads to a decrease in patient survival. Common nutrient deficiencies, as determined by experts at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, include protein calorie, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and K.

Boost Essential Nutrient Intake

Our quality and quantity of life is heavily dependent on our intake of nutrients. You are what you eat. Make a concerted effort to observe your food intake. Eat foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates. Eat a plant-based diet, meaning large amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, seaweed, and small amounts of meat, fish, chicken, eggs, yogurt, butter, and cheese.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Take one day a week to consume only water, a.k.a. intermittent fasting. Use appropriate nutrition supplements to augment your nutrient dense diet. Nutrient intake will either become your worst enemy or your best friend. It’s your choice.

Excerpted from Beating Cancer with Nutrition, by Patrick Quillin


1 . Quillin, P., HEALING NUTRIENTS, p.43, Vintage Books, NY, 1989
2 . Kune, GA, and Kune, S., Nutrition and Cancer, vol.9, p.1, 1987
3 . Patterson, BH, and Block, G., American Journal of Public Health, vol.78, p.282, Mar.1988

Dr. Patrick Quillin

Dr. Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS is an internationally recognized expert in the area of nutrition and health. He has 30 years experience as a clinical nutritionist, of which 10 years were spent as the Vice President for a leading cancer hospital system where he worked with thousands of cancer patients in a hospital setting. He is a Best Selling Author with 18 books which have sold over 2,000,000 copies and also a Keynote Speaker.

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