An analysis conducted by Joyce C. McCann, PhD and Bruce N. Ames, PhD at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute provides support for Dr Ames’ triage hypothesis, which proposes that our bodies have evolved to allocate often scarce micronutrients to functions that are critical to short term survival rather than to those which protect long term health.
Chronic insufficient intake of many vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids causes DNA damage, mitochondrial decay and cellular aging, which, while not affecting immediate survival, can lead to degenerative diseases later in life. “Natural selection favors short-term survival at the expense of long-term health,” explained Dr Ames in an introduction to his hypothesis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. “I hypothesize that short-term survival was achieved by allocating scarce micronutrients by triage, in part through an adjustment of the binding affinity of proteins for required micronutrients. If this hypothesis is correct, micronutrient deficiencies that trigger the triage response would accelerate cancer, aging, and neural decay but would leave critical metabolic functions, such as ATP production, intact.”
Drs Ames and McCann reviewed hundreds of articles concerning vitamin K and its 16 known dependent proteins for the current analysis. Studies of mice in which vitamin K-dependent proteins were rendered inoperative revealed that five of these proteins have functions that are essential to survival, and 5 are less critical. The body preferentially distributes vitamin K to the liver to preserve coagulation when vitamin K levels are reduced; however, suboptimal vitamin K intake and anticoagulant-induced vitamin K deficiency have been linked with such age related conditions as bone fragility, arterial and kidney calcification, cardiovascular disease, and possibly cancer. “A triage perspective reinforces recommendations of some experts that much of the population and warfarin/coumadin patients may not receive sufficient vitamin K for optimal function of vitamin K-dependent proteins that are important to maintain long-term health,” the authors write.
The report, which appeared online on August 19 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was published in the October, 2009 issue. The analysis is the first in a series conducted by Drs Ames and McCann to test the triage hypothesis. “Encouraging support for the triage theory from our vitamin K analysis suggests that experts aiming to set micronutrient intake recommendations for optimal function and scientists seeking mechanistic triggers leading to diseases of aging may find it productive to focus on micronutrient-dependent functions that have escaped evolutionary protection from deficiency,” Dr McCann stated.
This study supports the premise of general nutritional supplementation. If you give your body all the nutrients it needs in optimal levels then your body will use what it needs for survival today and will still have nutrients left over for long term health.