Sunday, January 27, 2008

What’s an essential nutrient?

A reasonable person may assume that an essential nutrient is one you need to sustain a healthy body. But who says a reasonable person thinks like a nutritionist? In nutrition speak, an essential nutrient is a very special thing:
  • * An essential nutrient cannot be manufactured in the body. You have to get essential nutrients from food or from a nutritional supplement.
  • * An essential nutrient is linked to a specific deficiency disease. For example, people who go without protein for extended periods of time develop the protein-deficiency disease kwashiorkor.
People who don’t get enough vitamin C develop the vitamin C–deficiency disease scurvy. A diet rich in the essential nutrient cures the deficiency disease, but you need the proper nutrient. In other words, you can’t cure a protein deficiency with extra amounts of vitamin C.
Not all nutrients are essential for all species of animals. For example, vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human beings but not for dogs. A dog’s body makes the vitamin C it needs. Check out the list of nutrients on a can or bag of dog food. See? No C. The dog already has the C it — sorry, he or she —requires.
Essential nutrients for human beings include many well-known vitamins and minerals, several amino acids (the so-called building blocks of proteins),

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