Dr. David Vollmer | The nutritional and supplemental evolution to improve the quality of life of the human being.
David Vollmer

Dr. David Vollmer | The nutritional and supplemental evolution to improve the quality of life of the human being.

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Hola. Thank you Dr. Sanchez. I don’t speak Español but I think he said very nice things about me, and thank you Dr. Solis for your interesting talk on photosynthesis.

(Could we move to my presentation?)

Thank you so much for the opportunity to come and talk with you. It’s a real pleasure of mine to talk about something that is very important to me and that’s nutrition, and we can see all the important issues that are happening at this CUMIPAZ and nutrition is another aspect that is very important for our health and the health of our world.

And so I wanted to talk a little bit about nutrition from the standpoint of its evolution: Where have we been, where are we now and where are we going. I think, from what I learned in a lot of these talks, is that we can learn a lot from our past, we learn a lot from our ancestors. And whether it’s nutrition or the environment it’s important to understand our past. And so in the context of this wonderful summit, I wanted to talk about nutrition from the standpoint of our ancestry.

So, just a little about myself, and I think Dr. Sanchez talked a little about that. My background is chemistry, I am an analytical chemist, I have a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry. I’ve a number of different publications where I have talked about pharmaceutical, dietary supplements, and I’ve also had a number patents in the area of inflammation and cancer. I’ve spent about 20 years, over 20 years of my life working in various aspects of health. Initially it was in pharmaceutical health, so it was really taking someone who was already in an extreme state in a disease and trying to treat them, and when I started to think about it (in my career) I started to think: Maybe it’s more important to help people before they get to that point; and so, help people prevent the disease rather than having to treat the disease. And so, with that I moved over and started working for a company called 4Life, who sells dietary supplements and that started my journey on utilizing supplementation and nutrition to better help people in a preventive and proactive way for health.

And so, when we think about nutrition one of the easiest markers to look at in terms of nutrition is human health, and the way to measure that is through life expectancy. And I saw a slide earlier today (I don’t remember, I think it was in climate control) where they showed how the population has expanded dramatically just in the last hundreds of years, and that’s had profound effects on our environment. And a lot of it, when you look at it from a root-cause analysis, a lot of it depends on how are nutritional status has changed. And so, what we’ve found is that we’ve learned more things about our nutritional status in the last hundred years, and that’s really coinciding with the scientific focus on nutrition.

And so, when you think about centuries ago when the population, babies coming into the Earth and people leaving the Earth that was always a bit of a balance, right? And so, when you see these lines here, you see that the life expectancy is very flat because the incoming population and the outgoing population are basically the same; and that’s a lot attributed to communicable diseases, so, the plague, malaria, things like that. And what we’ve found is that as we started to focus our attention, the science on nutrition that our life expectancy increased, our populations increased and that’s a direct result of understanding our nutrition. So the more we know about our nutrition, the more we live, the better we live; and so, there’s been an immense amount of focus in the last hundred years in our nutrition, and that’s what I’ll talk about today.

If we go back and we look in say the 17th and 18th centuries and we looked at what happened to folks, we would have a lot of diseases and a lot of those diseases nowadays are very, very treatable. But back then, we didn’t have information on why do we have diseases. And so, this is an example of a disease called scurvy, which was directly a result of lack of vitamin C, and this happened a lot with merchant marines, with sailors, they would develop scurvy. It’s a communicable so it would spread and everybody would have a poor quality of life. And it wasn’t until the middle of the 1700s where they realized that if we can treat these people with lime, lemon juice, that we can ameliorate the disease, we can eradicate it. And it wasn’t until the 1930s where they realized it’s actually this molecule here, this is vitamin C. And so when we treat with vitamin C, we see the scurvy goes away, right? This communicable disease that once was untreatable now goes away.

We see the same thing with a disease called rickets. Rickets is basically a decalcification process that makes your bones not healthy and what they found in the early 1900s was that with light we could help mitigate that disease, help ameliorate that disease. And come to found out a few years later that it’s because of vitamin D. And so, we have many of these different examples where if you have a deficiency in our nutrition, in our macronutrients, it directly relates to a disease. And centuries ago we knew the disease but we didn’t know that the cure was, and so the scientific focus that’s happened in the last century has really allowed us to improve our life and improve these communicable diseases. And the direct result of that is that our life spans are better and our life spans are longer.

Now, in America we… What this really started was it paved the way, these deficient diseases actually paved the way to what we call “dietary standards,” right? How can we improve our nutrition to help our health? And so there was a shift of these deficiency diseases to now being able to help that. And they started to create these standards, these written documents that allow us to say: “Here is how you need to take care of this,” and one of the first ones was the Merchant Marine Act in Great Britain that said: “If you are a sailor and you are going down on a ship, if you don’t want to get scurvy you need to take this lime juice.” And so these were kind of the beginnings of what we call nowadays “nutritional guidelines” on how to help and improve our health.

And in the 1900s most of the focus was actually on macronutrients. So, protein, fat, carbohydrates, these are macronutrients; and really the point of the macronutrients was to give us energy, right? If you think back during that time, we had a lot of manual labor and so you needed a lot of energy to be able to do that manual labor. Nowadays the amount of manual labor is not as much and so you don’t need as much energy, but at that time you did. We also had wars and so soldiers, military needed energy as well; and so a lot of the focus of these dietary guidelines were really on macronutrients.

It wasn’t until the 1940s where we really started to understand a little bit more about our nutrition and how it impacts us. And so we started to classify these different types of nutrition. So, we had colored vegetables, we had fortified milk, because we know if we fortify milk that that helps our bones, with the calcium and the vitamin D. Interestingly, this was in 1940, we note that margarine and butter were also a part of what we consider as good nutrition. Now, we know now that that’s not the case, right? that’s fat, that’s a lot of fat and that’s a lot of unnecessary macronutrients that we don’t need. But as the time we were just developing these guidelines.

And then you can fast forward that to 1990 and we have what we call the “food pyramid” and they start to prioritize what’s important. How much do you need of each one. But all along it’s an evolution of understating based on the current science and that allows us to improve our nutritional status.

If we look at the dietary standards across the world, they’re very, very different, right? We have in Mexico and the U.S., we have plates, in Germany we have pyramids, in China we have pagodas, in the Arabic countries we have domes; and these different dietary standards are really based on the scientific understanding within that country and it’s vastly different depending on where you go. And we encounter that (in my company) we encounter that a lot because we have products that go around the world and we don’t always have the exact same product in each part of the country because some of the regulations are quite different. And so what this really does is it helps us globally that we can develop nutritional requirements based on understanding what nutrients we need. So, as we understand more of what the nutrients that we need in our body, our nutritional requirements get better and that’s an evolutionary type of process.

The interesting thing about that is that we are now in this age where we apply a scientific focus to this and our ancestors knew this all along but there wasn’t the science, it was just the understanding, not the science, to validate, to demonstrate that.

What we know now, as we look across the globe, is that in terms of our nutritional intake we don’t always get the right nutrients and so when we think about vitamins and minerals, we need to get vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. And you can see from this graph here this is the standard worldwide of what we should be getting in terms of fruits and vegetables, it’s about 400 grams or five servings; and you can see across the globe, whether it’s vegetables or fruits, we’re not getting enough. Now, we’re not getting enough because in some parts of the world that food is scarce, right? based on climate change, the impact of climates and so on. In the United States that’s certainly not the case, we have plenty of food available but we just choose not to eat it, we choose not to eat the right foods.

And that brings up a good point on nutrition because we really have now two forms of nutrition: malnutrition; we have under nourishment, right? So, we think about under nourishment, we always think about the child in Africa who doesn’t have enough food to eat, where they’re going to get their next meal. But there is another form of malnutrition and that’s called over nourishment, and means that we’re eating too much, we’re eating too much food because it’s plentiful now compared to centuries ago. we’re eating too much and we’re not eating the right amounts of food.

And so, that has a profound affect on our nutrition, just like not understanding centuries ago the issue of communicable diseases and getting the right nutrients And so there is this idea of over nourishment and nowadays that actually is as important as under nourishment. And so the number of deaths based on over nourishment is in some parts of the world higher based on over nourishment than it is based on under nourishment.

Why is that? Well, we have a new industry that is emerging and I think all of you probably have eaten at one of these places, right? Who has never eaten at one of these restaurants? Sadly, all of these are from, started in the United States but you can see the number of countries and the number of restaurants that are out there; it’s a global phenomena, we’ve created this whole new industry that has emerged and the nutritional aspects, the food that is offered at these places is not good. And so, we tend to eat at places like this with not good food and we tend to eat more than what we should. And that is part of the reason why we have this issue of obesity or over nourishment.

In fact, when you look at it in terms of obesity, you can see that across the world (not just in developing countries, not just in North America) but across the world obesity is becoming a huge issue. And it really turns out, it’s more of a socio-economic issue than it is a developed country type of issue.

And so, what we’ve seen, if we look back centuries ago and see that… the issue of mortality, the issue of life span was based on communicable diseases, there’s been a fundamental shift, a paradigm shift between communicable diseases and now disease that are because of lifestyle, right? because we are not getting enough nutrients and we are not eating the right foods, we’re not eating the proper portions; and so we’ve gone from this, what I call a ‘nutrient deficiency state’ where you have diseases like scurvy and blindness and rickets, to now this state of malnourishment that is primarily just based on lifestyle.

And so, what we see is that: Why is that? It’s because we’ve become very sedentary, right? We aren’t moving as much and a lot of that is because of technology, it’s not just… In America we always think of the child that sits and plays video games or plays on their phone or watches tv for hours and is not exercising. But that’s not the only part, that’s not the sole player in this obesity epidemic. It’s really because transportation has become passive, right? So, centuries ago we used to walk, we used to run, we would ride a bicycle. Now we take a train, we take a plane, we take cars and so we are not as active in our physical health. And that lifestyle change, that shift, and we are utilizing the energy in our bodies, has really changed and so our lifestyles has become much more sedentary; and so, the overconsumption of food, the malnutrition and then the lack of activity, has started this near pandemic issue with obesity.

Now, along with this we have, we’ve learned a lot, right? As I mentioned earlier that there’s been an extreme amount of scientific focus on nutrition and early on we would have lots of different, or understanding information in terms of nutrition came from dietary records, right? We would record what eat and that’s how we would learn where the nutrition of each food was. Since that time we’ve developed technologies that allow us to monitor our bodies, and not just monitor our bodies in a hospital but actually monitor our bodies at home.

And so, here there’s a few examples of being able to take your blood pressure, right? And we know with salt the blood pressure goes up. This is a glucose monitoring that was developed back in the early 70s and we could look at our blood sugar, our insulin. And then back in the 1930s we actually developed a test to understand our cholesterol, right? And so, that has to do with our heart health. And so, there’s been this science in terms of understanding, not just what we’re taking in but what our bodies are doing; and that field of science has advanced very, very rapidly in the last 40 or 50 years. And in fact, what it’s allowed us to do is now look at our bodies and see, based on what we’re taking in, are we reaching the proper nutritional levels? Are we getting the right amount of macronutrients?

And what you see here in this particular graph, is that if all we are doing is getting our nutrition through food, whether you are over consuming bad food or under consuming good food, you see that when it comes to vitamins and minerals, right? (Remember, these are the micronutrients that are deficiency diseases). What you see is through food alone we’re not getting enough of our macronutrients, we’re not getting enough of our vitamins and minerals. And so that creates what I call “disprevalancy of inadequacy”, right? We are getting inadequate amounts of nutrients in our bodies.

And why is that? Why are we getting this? A lot of it I think it’s because we just don’t know, right? Nowadays when we take something, we want to feel it, right? If I’m feeling sluggish I want to take some sort of energy drink or mixture so that I can feel better, I can feel more energy. But you don’t do that when you’re deficient in macronutrients, unless you are extremely deficient and you have a deficiency disease, you don’t really know whether you’re deficient in macronutrients. But our diagnostic advances have now allowed us to understand that a little bit better. And this is an example of people who are probably not eating right and not getting the right amount of nutrients.

Now, if you look at people who actually do food and do supplements, which is our area of business, you see that that prevalence of inadequacy goes down, right? because generally speaking, the people who take supplements recognize that you’re not going to get these nutrients from food and you need to do other things to get nutrients. And so, that can be done by taking a multivitamin, multimineral.

This new science has really spawned this whole new world of understanding our own nutrition, and it’s an area called personalized nutrition, right? Because these dietary standards that we talked about that have been developed from country to country, that’s for the majority of the population but that’s not for everybody, right? And what’s the best way to understand yourself, is to know what you’re personal nutrition needs are. And so there’s been a lot of technologies that have come about where you can actually do this at home, these are called “point of care diagnostic tests.” And this allows us to better understand our nutritional needs so that we can tailor our diet, our supplementation, our exercise, so that we can fulfill these dietary requirements, these nutrient requirements. And you can see globally that these technologies are growing… incredibly amounts in Southeast Asia, is probably the largest per capita advancement of these diagnostic tests.

The newest science that’s going on in the last five or ten years is understanding our genetics. We know our genetics affect a lot about our nutritional status. We know in the last 15 years since we’ve solved the human genome, we know that we have genes that give us predispositions to insufficient nutrient intakes. So things like folate; some people can’t metabolize folate, and we know that pregnant women need to have folate. And so, our DNA tells us whether we can metabolize folate properly or we cannot.

There are also genes called FTO, which are associated with obesity; if you have some genetic mutations that are around the FTO gene then you have a predisposition to be obese. So, it’s not always just the inactivity or the improper diet but sometimes there’s a genetic component, a predisposition, to having these types of diseases. And so, we’re really starting to learn a lot of that in the last five or ten years.

There’s also an area of research called the ‘microbiome’ and the microbiome is has been in an incredible amount of research just in the last five years, where we are understanding that we have bacteria in our bodies that is beneficial. And we have a composition of good bacteria and bad bacteria; and the symbiotic relationship of that good bacteria directly impacts our own health. And so, we find that our diet also impacts that ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria. And actually, they’ve done studies where they’ve looked at tribes in Africa, they’ve looked at North America; and it turns out, the more diverse your diet is in terms of what you eat, the more diverse your microbiome is; and the more diverse the microbiome (the bacteria in your body, the more diverse it is) the more healthy you generally are. When you are in this what we call a dysbiotic state where the ratio of good and bad bacteria are favoring not so good health, we find that it has huge impacts on our health as well; it impacts our obesity, it impacts our cognition.

There is this area of research called the ‘gut-brain axis’ where the gut is essentially acting like second brain, and when you disrupt your gut you have issues with things like cognition or depression; and there’s a lot of work going on right now in that regard.

So, what have we learned? What can we do? What’s the ‘take home’ message for everyone? Well, I hope I’ve convinced you that having a good diet is the first step in having a healthy body and I think our ancestors knew that as well. And so, if I can just give a little bit of advice I would say: We need to limit a lot of the things that we take in. We need to limit sugars, we need to limit salt, we need to have more fruits and vegetables. The data shows us that we’re not getting enough fruits and vegetables, and so we need to eat more fruits and vegetables because getting these macronutrients, these vitamins and minerals through food is always the best way; and so, we have to eat better.

We also know that getting… We need to limit the amount of fats that we take in, if we increase more fats then that’s a sign of a predisposition for getting obesity. And the type of fats is also important, right? Unsaturated, polyunsaturated fats through natural ways like avocados and fish is much better than getting saturated fats through margarine, butter and cream. And so we need to promote proper health.

We also need to move around more, get more exercise, right? And so, the current recommendations, and these are global recommendations, these are recommendations that have been developed for or applied across the globe, is that we have to get 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. If we can’t get 75 minutes of vigorous exercise then we need to extend that if we are only going to be able to do moderate exercise.

And then finally, and I don’t know if anybody has ever seen this, this is the emoji for dietary supplement world, you probably don’t have it on your phone because I kind of made it myself but if we’re not getting the right amount of macronutrients, of vitamins and minerals through our food then we need a supplement. There is many different nutrients that we simply can’t consume enough food to get the proper amount of nutrients. And so, proper supplementation is very important. Getting the right protein, not always just protein, right? whether it’s plant based or animal based, but getting the proper and the high quality protein is also an important aspect; as well as getting the right fiber.

What we’ve seen in these epidemiological studies that have been done across the globe is that not a lot of people are getting enough fiber, and if you don’t get enough fiber you have digestive issues. And so taking the right amount of fiber, which I think the current recommendations run 25 grams, will help you with your digestive issues (if you have digestive issues).

And then always applying a personalized approach is beneficial and we should promote a personalized nutrition approach. The more you know about your own health, the better you can be proactive and preventive in your health.

That’s all, thank you so much.