Can we be well fed but malnourished?

In a word – Yes.  Yes, we can.

It is possible to be malnourished even when we have plenty to eat.

Knowing that there are key nutrients needed for brain development, we can infer that without them, full development may be delayed, interrupted or never realized. Most of the key nutrients are found in the following foods: cod liver oil and the liver, butter and egg yolks from grass-fed animals. Some of the nutrients are found in seafood and the meat of grass-fed animals.  What do you notice about this list?  These foods are all animal foods, and all the high-fat, high-cholesterol foods that were commonly told not to eat. As such, we suspect that there are relatively few of us who routinely consume these foods or feed them to our children.

These are the key nutrients for brain development and the foods they are found in:

Nutrient List
Food Sources List

A Note About Vitamin A

Vitamin A Photo

Unfortunately, the public has been given a lot of misinformation about vitamin A.  If you look on the back of a can of tomatoes, it will say the tomatoes contain a certain amount of vitamin A. There are many books on nutrition that tell you to get lots of vitamin A by eating carrots and green vegetables.  However, when we look up vitamin A in the biochemistry textbooks, or in the Merck Manual, we learn that there is no vitamin A in plant foods. It occurs only in animal foods. Plant foods contain the precursors to vitamin A, which are called carotenes.

Carotenes are converted into the true vitamin A in the intestines of animals, including humans. The carotene with the highest conversion factor, that is, the carotene that is most easily converted, is beta-carotene. Various enzymes and vitamins are needed to split beta-carotene into molecules of true vitamin A. It takes at least 6 molecules of carotene to produce one molecule of vitamin A.

So while it is true that humans can convert some of the carotenes in their food into vitamin A, many conditions interfere with this conversion.  And babies and children do not make this conversion at all.  You can give the baby carrot juice until he turns orange – and he will turn orange – but he will not make this conversion.  This is why babies and growing children right up to age 18 need more vitamin A in their diet as a function of body weight than adults do.  The books on infant feeding back in the 1930s and 1940s recommended 2 teaspoons of cod liver oil per day for infants over 3 months old.

A Note About Vitamin D

What the research on vitamin D tells us is that unless you are a fisherman, farmer, or otherwise outdoors in the tropics and exposed regularly to overhead sunlight, you are unlikely to obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun. Historically, the balance of one's daily need was provided by food. Modern diets usually do not provide adequate amounts of vitamin D, however, partly because of the trend to low-fat foods and partly because we no longer eat vitamin-D-rich foods like eggs from hens raised outside and fatty fish such as kippers and herring.

Additional Resources

  1. Which are recommended fats and oils for children?

  1. Cod liver oil basis and recommendations

  1. Our Malnourished Section on Video

  1. The Teeth Tell The Tale article

  1. Learn more in our Educational Materials

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