It sounds strange, but people are starving themselves into obesity. Our bodies crave the nutrients found in healthy foods. But if you eat food that's missing those vital nutrients, you'll just keep craving more food.
Unfortunately, our food supply is sorely lacking micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals we need to live healthy lives. Even fresh fruits and vegetables are a lot less nutrient-rich than they were a couple of generations ago.
Micronutrient deficiency can lead not only to obesity but a whole host of other health problems.
Everyone knows that going without food causes malnutrition. But people who eat plenty can also suffer from it and become very sick.
**Could you be one of them? Take this quiz to find out: caltonquiz.com
Journey to Wellness
Just ask Mira Calton.
"When I was 30 I was diagnosed with advanced osteoporosis, which means I had the bone density of an 80-year-old, which was quite a shock to the physicians at that time. They had no idea what had happened," she recalled.
"And all they told me was I was going to be on prescription medication for the rest of my life, it wasn't going to get any better and that was going to be my new existence," she continued.
Mira didn't want drugs, so she searched for a natural treatment. She remembered thinking, "I'm going to try taking calcium, maybe that will work."
That started the ball rolling.
"And then I started studying calcium and that led to magnesium, and magnesium research led to vitamin D and boron and K," she said. "And, all of the sudden, I realized that at the heart of what had happened to me was a really big micronutrient deficiency, a deficiency of vitamins and minerals that my bones were just starving for."
After two years of the right vitamins and minerals, her osteoporosis disappeared.
During that time, she embarked on a new career as a licensed certified nutritionist. She also met and fell in love with the man she eventually married, Jayson Calton, who holds a doctorate in nutrition and has completed post-doctoral continuing medical education at Harvard and Yale Medical Schools.
Now the dynamic duo are spreading the news about the dangers of micronutrient deficiency.
90% Americans Deficient
"For me it was osteoporosis," Mira said. "But it's also things like cancer, it has to do with your high blood pressure, your cholesterol levels, your metabolism, whether or not you sleep well, it has to do with everything, diabetes, and it also has a lot to do with obesity."
"This is why we say micronutrient deficiency is the most widespread and dangerous health condition of the 21st century. Because we're all walking around with these deficiencies and we have no idea that this is even a problem," Jayson added.
According to government statistic, micronutrient deficiency affects 90 percent of Americans, which means nearly all of us lack at least one critical vitamin or mineral necessary for good health.
Topping the list of micronutrients most people are lacking are potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, D and E.
Processed food is the major culprit. In their book, Naked Calories, the Caltons describe how processed food is stripped of the vitamins and minerals we need.
After reading the book, the Caltons invite readers to email them questions about micronutrient sufficiency. They promise to answer each question personally.
It's estimated that one quarter of the calories the average person consumes is completely void of any nutritional value whatsoever. Those are called "empty" calories.
But it gets worse: some foods even take away micronutrients. For instance, the phosphoric acid in carbonated drinks interferes with your body's ability to absorb calcium.
Jayson Calton said processed food companies spare no expense in developing foods that are utterly irresistible to consumers, foods that are addictive but tremendously unhealthy.
"There's a war going on right now with Americans and food manufacturers," he said. "And the problem is most Americans have no idea it's even going on."
Not only is processed food health enemy No. 1, but there is a shocking health hazard in the produce section of your grocery store.
Most people are unaware of the fact that fruits and vegetables are severely lacking in the vital micronutrients they contained just a generation or two ago.
For instance, apples contain 77 percent fewer minerals than they did 80 years ago. This is a trend observable with most produce.
The major reason for this change is over-farming, which robs the soil of precious micronutrients that used to be absorbed into the food.
Also, shipping produce long distances adds to the problem. Picking it too soon and exposing it to light, heat, and air for a long time, all take away micronutrients.
That's why buying local produce is a healthier alternative.
In addition to fresh produce, fresh meat is also lacking the vital micronutrients it once contained. This is because of the ravages of factory farming. Most animals raised on factory farms never see the light of day and are fed unnatural, unhealthy grains or worse.
"They're being fed up to seven pounds a day of stale candy and chocolate bars that these candy manufacturers are throwing at these farmers and saying hey, fatten up the cattle with this. It will spike their insulin, you'll get more marbling in the meat, you'll be able to sell the meat and it will taste better," he said.
"This is just, to me, an abomination," he argued.
A much healthier alternative to factory farmed beef is grass-fed beef.
"Now what's going to happen when the animal is out in the sunshine, absorbing the vitamin D, eating the grass? They're going to have over 400 percent more vitamin A and vitamin E in that meat," Jayson explained.
"There's going to be 300 percent more of something called CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid. This is a kind of fat that science thinks is going to help prevent cancer, it's also a kind of fat to help burn our body fat. This is a fat that these cows can really only get when they eat grass," he continued.
Lifestyle Depleting You?
Micronutrient deficiency isn't just about an unhealthy diet. There are lots of lifestyle habits we choose that deplete our body's reserve of vitamins and minerals.
Smoking, living in a polluted city, stress, prescription medicine, even exercise, all deplete our body's reserve of vitamins and minerals.
"And that's really scary, because when these things become deficient, we start to get sick," Mira said.
So to make up for what your body's missing, take a supplement. But choose carefully.
"The problem is most multi-vitamins don't disintegrate," Jayson explained. "They don't have enough of the good stuff in them, and also they're competing with each other for entry into the receptor sites in your gastrointestinal tract."
The Caltons recommend highly absorbable powdered multi vitamins, without fillers, binders, sugars, or artificial colors and flavors.
It should also be designed to take more than once a day to account for water solubility.
So while the standard American diet and lifestyle can lead to malnutrition, we can get the micronutrients our bodies crave by avoiding processed food, eating more local, organic produce, and supplementing properly.