Can B vitamins, zinc, and chromium counteract eating disturbances
- plus loss of smell and taste?
The rate of eating disturbances among children, teenagers, and adults has increased in the past year. Health authorities typically focus on cultural and psychosocial causes and therapies, but the treatments often drag out and are inadequate. What is equally important is to look at whether the patients lack essential nutrients that are important for the brain, the nervous system, the appetite, and the sense of smell and taste. Clinical research from the past decades has shown that anorexia and bulimia in particular can often be treated with zinc and various other nutrients, while chromium is important for maintaining stable blood sugar. The use of the right supplements combined with different therapy forms may therefore be the right way to obtain permanent results.
Eating disturbances are characterized by having a disturbed relation to food, body, and weight, which affects one’s physical and mental health and social life. When diagnosing eating disturbances, they are divided into three main categories: Anorexia, bulimia, and BED (binge eating disorder). But there are also atypical types of eating disorders.
Anorexia is characterized by a morbid fear of gaining weight and a huge desire to lose weight. Anorexics avoid eating and engage in exaggerated physical activity in order to increase their calorie consumption. A person suffering from anorexia has typically lost at least 15 percent of his or her body weight.
Bulimia is characterized by overeating, typically accompanied by compensating behavior such as throwing up or taking laxatives. A bulimic often has normal body weight which only makes it easier to conceal the disease.
BED (binge eating disorder) is characterized by compulsive, uncontrollable overeating followed by a sense of shame and guilt without compensating behavior. This is why people suffering from BED often are extremely overweight.
It is typically women in the ages group 14-24 years that are affected by eating disturbances, but the problem is also seen among younger and older men. Anorexia is typically the eating disorder that occurs early in life, whereas bulimia and BED occur later. The distribution of different eating disorders in a normal population is believed to be as follows: Anorexia (7%), bulimia (40%), and BED (53%). It is predominantly anorexics that go into therapy.
Why do we get eating disturbances?
Health authorities and experts claim that eating disturbances should be help up against factors such as family relations during upbringing, personality, and sociocultural factors. Also, advertising, fashion, and social media are believed to result in disturbed body focus and subsequent undereating or overeating. Eating disturbances are also seen in the sports realm, typically in disciplines where low weight is an advantage such as endurance sports, karate, judo, and taekwondo. The fashion world and ballet world are also affected
There are no professional circles as such that focus on whether lack of certain nutrients like B vitamins and zinc can cause anorexia or bulimia. Similarly, experts to not seem to be particularly interested in the fact that lack of chromium and unstable blood sugar can result in people feeling extremely hungry so they tend to overeat, especially the wrong kind of food.
In Norway, a comprehensive investigation from 2016 that involved various professionals described the bodily consequences of eating disturbances but failed to discuss whether nutrient deficiencies can cause or perpetuate eating disturbances. The same is the case in Denmark and many other countries.
Eating disturbances have serious consequences
An eating disturbance can lead to abnormally low blood sugar levels, absent menstruation, infertility, osteoporosis, heart rhythm disturbances, acute heart failure, heart infarction, pneumonia, type 2 diabetes, and a number of other ailments caused by excessive or inadequate calorie intake.
Anorexia, despite the huge media focus and the increased search for better therapies, is the eating disorder with the highest mortality. Norwegian studies looking at bulimia and the course of the disease and the treatment show that 50-80 percent of patients become more or less free of symptoms, which means that 20-50 percent of patients do not.
Danish studies reveal that it often takes several years to treat an eating disorder and that some people never recover. The obesity epidemic alone speaks volumes.
Talk therapy probably doesn’t help those who have experience childhood traumas or are controlled by beauty ideals. But it has been demonstrated that lack of nutrients can cause eating disorders and it is really important to take a closer look at this.
B vitamins and the psyche
B vitamins are important for things like energy metabolism, nerve and brain function, and for the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that affect our mental balance. B vitamins also influence our appetite, our production of stomach acid, and our digestive process, all of which are closely related.
Vitamin B deficiencies are typically a result of eating an unhealthy diet with too many refined foods, overconsuming sugar, coffee, and alcohol, and using birth control pills, diuretics, and antacids. Even stress can lead to a deficiency. It has been shown that lack of vitamin B1 (thiamin) can cause loss of appetite, depression, irritability, confusion, memory loss, and concentration difficulty.
Lack of vitamin B3 (niacin) may trigger anxiety, tiredness, headache, aggression, and insomnia. Vegans, vegetarians, and older people are at particular risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 in only found in animal food sources. A vitamin B12 deficiency is usually insidious and may cause loss of appetite, arousal, hallucinations, depression, and dementia-like symptoms.
Zinc and the psyche
Zinc is a co-factor of over 300 different enzymes, 60 of which are found in the brain. Zinc is also a constituent of different transport proteins in the cell membranes that are necessary for making sure that the right cell genes are expressed at the right time. Zinc is of importance for a host of different physiological processes that relate to the brain, the nervous system, and blood sugar balance. Zinc is also important for our sense of taste and smell.
We get zinc from oysters, meat, offal, fish, beans, nuts, and wheat germ. Animal sources are absorbed better than plant sources.
Zinc deficiency is not just linked to dietary intake. It is also influenced by different factors that can increase the need for zinc, increase the excretion of zinc, or impair the uptake.
Birth control pills and inorganic iron supplements can impair the zinc uptake, and so can high calcium intake. Large consumption of sugar and other types of refined carbohydrates is also able to deplete the body’s zinc levels. The excretion of zinc is increased by factors like stress and heavy sweating.
Zinc deficiency affects the psyche and the sense of taste and smell in anorexics
A person with anorexia will eventually lose the ability to maintain normal brain function due to the zinc deficiency. What is also affected is the ability to register what the eyes actually see. A thin anorexic may therefore feel that he or she looks chubby, not for psychological reasons but because the brain delivers a distorted picture of reality.
The sense of taste will also gradually vanish because of decreased production of anhydrase, an enzyme that we have in our saliva. This causes the food to be tasteless or taste different, and the appetite is also lowered. The combination of a distorted self-image, distorted sense of taste, and lack of appetite makes the person feel even more motivated to lose more weight.
An American study of micronutrient status in 153 anorexics showed that half of them lacked at least one trace element, including zinc, and that around 46 percent lacked at least one vitamin, especially vitamin A and folic acid. Another American study of patients with bulimia did not find any notable difference in zinc status when comparing them to a group of healthy controls.
More recent studies of anorexics
In 2018, two American scientists, James M. Greenblat and Desiree D. Delane, published a large article in which they wrote that eating disorders are to blame for one suicide per hour in the United States. Anorexia is not only the eating disorder that is linked to the highest mortality rate, it is also the psychological disorder that causes most deaths. At least 15-25 percent of treated patients suffer a relapse after two years and the risk of suicide is higher than with depression alone.
At least eight human studies show a direct link between brain function and zinc status and that anorexics experience disturbances in their appetite and sense of taste. Zinc deficiencies have also been found in other neurological disorders such as ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia that can also be related to eating disorders.
Many people suffering from anorexia get too little protein and the lack the amino acid tryptophane that is a precursor of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain.
The authors issue a stern warning against anorexics eating strictly vegetarian or vegan diets that can result in lack of protein, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and important fats. Moreover, vegetable foods only contain limited amounts of zinc, and a high fiber intake can also block the body’s zinc uptake.
It is important for anorexics to eat a diet wit plenty of protein and healthy fats, possibly by consuming healthy energy beverages or smoothies that are easier to ingest. It is also a good idea to take high-dosed B vitamin supplements plus zinc. The authors point to high-dozed organic zinc preparations
Choose organic zinc supplements that the body can absorb and utilize
Zinc gluconate, zinc acetate, zinc citrate, and zinc orotate are organic sources that the body can easily absorb and utilize. The reference intake (RI) level for zinc in Denmark is 10 mg. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established 25 mg/day as the safe upper intake level for adults and pregnant women. One can even consume a larger dose for a shorter period without problems.
Daily intake of 15-30 mg is recommended for minor zinc deficiency, while moderate to severe zinc deficiency requires up to 50 mg three times per day. This is the dose that has been used to treat anorexics.
When treating zinc deficiency, one must continue supplementing beyond the point where zinc concentrations are normalized, which is because most of our zinc is stored in tissues and not in our blood.
Long-term zinc supplementation with larger doses may inhibit the body’s uptake of iron and copper.
|Research shows that zinc supplements improve the appetite, the sense of taste, the digestion, and the nutrient uptake. All of this helps normalize eating habits.|
BED (binge eating disorder) and insulin resistance
As mentioned earlier, BED is characterized by compulsory, uncontrollable overeating accompanied by an intense feeling of shame and guilt but without compensating behavior. This is why BED sufferers become extremely overweight. The desire to eat these quantities of food can be psychological and represent a type of emotional eating, but it can also be physical and a result of insulin resistance and unstable blood sugar. Many people with insulin resistance also suffer from leptin resistance, which prevents satiety (leptin is a weight-regulating hormone)
In these cases, talk therapy alone is not enough. You also need to gain control of blood sugar levels and try to pinpoint the underlying problems
The carbohydrates from food and drink have the main impact on blood sugar levels. After ingesting them, the pancreas starts to produce insulin that helps cells take up glucose, which they need for energy.
Under normal circumstances, glucose is the brain’s only source of fuel, while muscles, the heart, and other organs are also able to use fat as a fuel source. In modern society, the intake of fast, refined carbohydrates such as white flour, pizza, sugar, soft drinks, and junk food has increased tremendously. This may result in insulin resistance and impaired glucose uptake in the cells. This may cause a sudden need for sugar that typically affects the brain. In a desperate need for fuel, the brain disables it willpower in its quest for quick energy, which is typically found in the type of fast carbohydrates like candy and sweets that are known enter the blood immediately. The brain gets its energy fix, but the excessive carbohydrates that are not metabolized right here and now are removed from the blood and stored as fat. This incomplete combustion of carbohydrates is what makes you feel hungry again soon after. Another problem is that you tend to gain weight, typically in the form of abdominal fat. Insulin resistance is part of what is known as metabolic syndrome, which is an early stage of type 2 diabetes, and that is why it is crucial to gain control of the blood sugar with any type of eating disorder, including BED.
Chromium enhances the effect of insulin
Insulin functions a lot better when it is attached to a special chromium compound (chromodulin) that helps insulin channel more glucose into the cells. It is like when a car suddenly gives better mileage. Chromium is essential for optimal glucose uptake, stable blood sugar levels, prolonged satiety, and for suppressing the need for extra calories. According to EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority), organic chromium yeast has up to 10 times better absorption than synthetic chromium sources like chromium picolinate and chromium chloride.
Other useful advice for controlling blood sugar levels
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