The subject of vitamins requirements on a Zero Carb diet is delicate, the main reason being there is NO study to support different needs from an “all-animal product diet” in comparison to the “recommended low-fat high-carbohydrate diet” by most health authorities. There are no observational study, and certainly no clinical studies on the subject.
The only references we can use are anecdotal, mostly from individual experiences, or historical observations from explorers and even socio-anthropological research, this last one being of great value in nutrition nowadays. So everything we want to explain has to be supported by this kind of knowledge, but interestingly, much more references to the physiology and metabolism of vitamins in our body is now available and supports a different way of seeing things.
I will voluntary omit describing the plentiful vitamin array content of animal food items, as this was already covered in recent posts. But I will still repeat it: ALL ESSENTIAL VITAMINS can be found in an “all animal food items” diet.
There are 14 vitamins identified up to now for the good functioning of the human body. They have diverse jobs to do such as regulation of mineral metabolism, of cells and tissue growth (egg. Vit. A), as antioxidants (egg. Vit. E and C), or as enzyme reactions cofactors (most of the vit. B complex). Some vitamins can be produce by the body (egg. vit. D by sunlight exposure) while others are considered “a necessity” in the diet, like vit. C.
There are two groups of vitamins: FAT-SOLUBLE vitamins (needing fat to be absorbed and can be stored in the liver for long-periods) and the WATER-SOLUBLE (they dissolve in water so eliminated in urine and do not usually accumulate in large amounts). The fat-soluble vitamins include vit. A (retinol), vit. D, vit. E and vit. K. The water-soluble includes the B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenate), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin)
Today’s recommendations of daily needs in vitamins for humans are, sadly, based on a HIGH carbohydrate diet and presented with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Interestingly, our actual observations, experiences and knowledge about a Zero Carb way of eating do NOT support these recommendations, and we will see why these requirements CANNOT be used in this particular case.
Let’s begin with a simple example: the case with VITAMIN C.
As Zero Carbers, our intake of VITAMIN C is extremely low and as our body cannot produce it, we need a way to get it. Yes, there are some quantities of vitamin C in muscle meat but they are quite small and easily destroyed by cooking. Organs meat does contain larger amounts but again, as it is not a staple item in many countries, we cannot rely too much on this source. So what is happening here? Why does folks on Zero carbs diet do not get scurvy (disease of lacking vitamin C)?
The answer is quite interesting; it can be set historically and physiologically. The first description of scurvy came when explorers were sailing the world centuries ago while spending long months at sea with no apparent sources of vitamin C. Once the deficiency was identified, they were given citrus fruit and were cured. From there, it was concluded humans need some fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet to provide the precious vitamin. But when you look at what other food items were available on board ships, you realize they also had FLOUR and SUGAR.
Which brings us to the physiology of VITAMIN C. Did you know glucose and vitamin C do compete for absorption by human cells, as they have molecular similarities and they use the same insulin-dependent transport system? This being said, glucose is favored in this contest and it controls how much vitamin C is absorbed. The more you eat carbohydrates the less you absorb vitamin C, thus increasing your daily needs for this nutrient. Imagine now how much vitamin C will be absorbed from a morning sugary glass of orange juice…
Glucose will also impair RE-ABSORPTION of vitamin C in the kidneys, as when the glucose and the vitamin C are filtrated in the first part of the kidney, the glucose will, again, be reabsorb in priority over vitamin C in the end part of the kidney. Result: the more you eat carbohydrates, the more your kidney will eliminate vitamin C.
Do I need to say “the LESS carbohydrates you eat means the more vitamin C your kidneys will RECYCLE”?
Yes, vitamins are recycled in the human body. Anyway, why would we get rid of these precious molecules when we already have them in our system and we need them so much?
Another good example is fat-soluble VITAMIN A: it is absorbed in the bowel after combining with bile salts secreted by the gallbladder (responsible for fat absorption) and will then accumulate in the liver to form reserves for the body to use. Then, vit. A will be transported to cells by a lipoprotein, similar to the lipoprotein carrying cholesterol, e.g. LDL. Interestingly, we know LDL lipoprotein, considered as “the bad cholesterol”, transports VITAMIN E to all our cells. Isn’t strange that the “BAD LDL” is carrying “GOOD VITAMIN E”? Some are saying it is a paradox: the MORE you have HIGH LDL, the MORE you have powerful antioxidant VITAMIN E delivered and the MORE you have hearth problem… So please explain me why someone would take some statins to lower his LDL and diminish his delivery of VITAMIN E to his cells? I think we are looking here more at nonsense then at a paradox…
Finally, when the cells are finish using vitamin A, it is transported back to the liver, a recycling system that is quite efficient. Interestingly, it is proven when vit. A intakes are low, the efficiency of this recycling INCREASES.
Before finishing, I want to give one example showing how our daily nutrient needs CAN VARY FROM ONE DIET TO ANOTHER. Let’s take, for example, IRON. Yes, I know, iron is not a vitamin, but this is only to understand there are NO set needs for everyone but “needs according to the composition of your diet”.
Daily requirements of iron for vegetarians are 1.8 to 3 TIMES higher then in a “regular” diet. This higher level is needed because iron from plant is not easily absorbed, as it is a NON-HEME type iron, contrarily to the HEME type of iron in animal foods, which is taken up nicely by the human body. Results: carnivores have better iron reserves then vegetarians. The same applies here to vitamins: when their origins are plants, their absorption goes down because of the presence in these said plants of binding substances such as lectins, oxalates or phytic acids. This is the reason why these substances are called “anti-nutrients”. Substances not founded in an all meat diet….
To finish, let’s talk about one of the most lucrative market in the “health related businesses”: dietary SUPPLEMENTS.
Supplements represent hundreds of billions in revenue per year for a “low production cost mega-industry” and as they are not considered “drugs” but as “food items”, there is NO control on supplements production, content, safety or dosage; what you read “on the box” is what the producers want you to believe. And this is done with the approbation of all our official authorities, worldwide.
VITAMINS are a big part of this supplement market and the reason is easy to understand: historically, vitamins made themselves a name quite easily. When we would identify a deficiency, taking artificially produced supplement to compensate the lack of the said vitamin would bring back the blood levels of this vitamin to normal, and this was considered enough to conclude the deficiency cured. It was reassuring and doctors believed supplements were the answer to all vitamin deficiency problems.
This belief went on for several lucrative decades until some mega studies on vitamins intake discovered taking them had NO benefit on health, even showing they can be DANGEROUS. It seems there are more cancers, more hearth problems, more of everything with vitamin supplements. The most recent study documents NIACIN (vitamin B3), one of the most prescribe vitamin by cardiologist, offers no protection at all for the hearth…
What is interesting to observe on the different Low Carb websites, is the DECREASE of vitamin supplements intake along with the DECREASE of carb intake. It seems folks on LOW CARB take SOME supplements, those on VERY LOW CARB take less, and MOST of the folks on ZERO CARB are taking none…
Now that we have about 5 years of recorded experiences with large group of people on Zero Carb that are wittiness one can be healthy, mentally and physically, with a diet including NO vegetal food items and NO vitamin supplement, I think we are allowed to state that today’s VITAMIN RECOMMENDATIONS are not reliable because they do not consider individual diet composition and the variation it may cause on absorption.
So I think we can relax, enjoy our Zero Carb approach, and let others to worry getting enough vitamins with their “recommended diet”…