Micronutrients are among the largest and most diverse components of our body’s metabolism. They are essential for facilitating biological processes and play countless roles in optimising physical and cognitive function. Despite their importance, they are one of the most misunderstood and neglected aspects of current-day diets, resulting in an epidemic of suboptimal health and performance.
Vitamins & minerals for metabolic performance.
What are micronutrients?
The term micronutrients is a broad classification that includes both vitamins and minerals. Humans obtain micronutrients mainly through consuming foods; however, some can be synthesised via processes within the body. According to Dr Bruce Ames’s Triage theory, there are 41 different micronutrients that our bodies use for metabolic processes .
Vitamins are organic (carbon-based) compounds produced by living organisms, such as plants and animals. Humans obtain vitamins primarily through their diets, although some, such as vitamin D, can be synthesised by the body given the right conditions . Vitamins can be categorised into two main groups; fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body’s liver, muscle tissue, and fat, whilst water-soluble vitamins are usually either used or expelled . There are currently 13 recognised vitamins; however, adopting Bruce Ames’s Triage theory, an additional 11 compounds may function as conditional vitamins or putative longevity vitamins .
- Vitamin A
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Biotin (B7)
- Folate (B9)
- Cobalamin (B12)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Putative longevity vitamins
- Pyrroloquinoline quinone
- Alpha & Beta carotene
- Beta cryptoxanthin
Minerals are inorganic molecules found in non-living substances such as soil and water. They typically make their way into our diets via ingestion as they are passed up the food chain. Plants will absorb nutrients from inorganic material, and animals will absorb these minerals from the plants upon digestion . Minerals are usually classed as either macro-minerals or trace minerals, based on the amounts required by the human body . Dr Bruce Ames identifies 17 minerals as being necessary for metabolic function .
The role of micronutrients in the body
Micronutrients have a range of unique and diverse functions within the body and are required for a vast number of metabolic pathways.
Essential for enzyme function. Many micronutrients act as coenzymes or cofactors for enzymes, the biological machines that facilitate reactions in our bodies . These micronutrients are required for enzymes to function and carry out their role effectively, which affects almost all processes within the body. From protein synthesis to immune response and everything in-between, if you can think of a process in the body, it likely relies on enzymes (and therefore micronutrients) to function.
Synthesis of biological compounds.Some micronutrients act as the raw ingredients for structures in the body. Teeth, bones, membranes, and many other components of the body rely on micronutrients for their formation and maintenance . In fact, some micronutrients are used as building blocks for all living tissues. There are also micronutrients that play a significant role in synthesising important biological components, such as hormones, blood cells, fatty acids, neurotransmitters, and DNA,  .
Chemical messengers.Micronutrients are often used as a means of communication within and between cells. Some mechanisms in the body are triggered when changes in micronutrient concentrations occur. Therefore, the transport of micronutrients in, out, and around cells can act as a form of communication. In many ways, the function of cells is dictated by micronutrient transport. This is how nerves can pass messages around the body at such outstanding speeds. Consequently, micronutrients are essential for systems such as muscle contraction and brain function .
Antioxidants.Some metabolic pathways in the body produce dangerous chemicals called free radicals. These can damage cells and may contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease . Many micronutrients function as antioxidants in the body, cleaning up and protecting it from toxins and free radicals. This helps to ensure cellular structures are kept intact and undamaged .
Energy production.The body relies on micronutrients to create energy for the cells. This energy usually takes the form of ATP and is synthesised from macronutrient sources in our food. The metabolism of these macronutrients is heavily reliant on micronutrients. Some are responsible for driving the general reactions that produce energy from food, whilst others play specific roles in breaking down fatty acids, amino acids, and glucose. Micronutrients are also essential for the process that synthesises ATP .
Despite being so crucial to our metabolism and overall physical and cognitive function, micronutrients are often neglected in people’s diets.
Getting adequate micronutrients in your diet can be complicated and challenging. Most people struggle to implement the diversity required in their food to fulfil their micronutrient needs, mainly due to complexity and time constraints. The lack of varied, high-quality micronutrient sources in our diets has resulted in a deficiency epidemic across the globe.
Your body is a complex arrangement of metabolic processes functioning in unison. Whether your goal is to optimise performance, or simply improve your health and wellbeing, having an adequate micronutrient intake is essential for success.
If your micronutrient intake is inadequate, your body will not function at a high level during exercise, as metabolic processes that produce energy will be compromised. Likewise, many processes that drive recovery and adaptation will be starved of the appropriate nutrients required to function.
Micronutrients are also essential for optimising structures in the body, as they are used for building and maintaining muscle tissue and bones. These structures are critical to our performance under load, whether it be endurance, speed, strength, or power. Other important biological components such as hormones, neurotransmitters, and blood cells are vital for peak physical function and rely heavily on adequate micronutrient intake.
Another factor to consider is micronutrients’ effect on ageing and cell repair. Dr Bruce Ames’s Triage theory suggests that when the body is deficient in a micronutrient, it will prioritise processes in the body required for short term survival. Proteins and enzymes involved in long term health, such as those needed for DNA protection and repair, will lose out on the allocation of nutrients. This can result in accelerated damage and ageing to cellular structures, providing a suboptimal environment for recovery and longevity .
Ideally, your diet should provide you with adequate levels of every essential micronutrient sourced from various foods in order for all metabolic processes to function at their best.
The radix solution
At Radix, we strive to create the best quality products for the best possible performance. With a focus on nutrient density, the Radix Nutrition Architecture (RNA) includes all 41 of Bruce Ames’s essential vitamins and minerals. This sets the standard for the nutrient profile of our foods. Sourced from over 30 different fruits and vegetables, our products are designed to fulfil your body’s daily needs across a broad spectrum of micronutrients. We believe this is the only way to maximise metabolic function and truly reach the peak of physical and cognitive performance.
- Ames, B.N., Prolonging healthy aging: Longevity vitamins and proteins. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2018. 115(43): p. 10836-10844.
- Healthline. Micronutrients: Types, Functions, Benefits and More. 2018 [cited 2022 27/01]; Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/micronutrients.
- MedlinePlus. Vitamins. 2021 [cited 2022 27/01]; Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002399.htm.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Precious metals and other important minerals for health. 2021 [cited 2022 27/01]; Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/precious-metals-and-other-important-minerals-for-health#:~:text=The%20minerals%20come%20from%20rocks,may%20be%20fortified%20with%20minerals.
Medlineplus. Minerals. 2021 [cited 2022 27/01]; Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/minerals.html.
- Awuchi Godswill, I.V.S., Amagwula O. Ikechukwu, and Echeta Chinelo Kate, Health benefits of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and their associated deficiency diseases: A systematic review. International Journal of Food Sciences, 2020. 3(1).
- Berdanier, C.D., Advanced nutrition micronutrients. 1998, LLC: Taylor & Francis.
- National Institues of Health. Vitamin E. 2021 [cited 2022 31/01]; Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/.