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3 Ways to Cure Vitamin Deficiencies

Food

As diet plans shout louder and louder to convince us that going vegan or paleo or low-carb is the only way everyone should eat, something gets lost in the message: Your food choices should be based on more than just an include the good/exclude the bad prescription. Your diet should pay attention to key details—the micronutrients, according to Jayson Calton, PhD, and Mira Calton, certified nutritionist, authors of the upcoming book, The Micronutrient Miracle.

After you've maxed the nutrients you get from food and minimized your micronutrient deficiencies, you can consider supplements to fill in any gaps using the Caltons' ABC's to eliminate the flaws in multivitamins.

"It doesn't matter what kind of diet you follow," said Jayson at the High Performance Health Summit. "The most important thing in a good diet is becoming sufficient in the essential micronutrients. But if you're not sufficient, it doesn't matter what diet you do—you'll never be able to achieve optimal health, in our opinion."

Micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals in our food, seem to have these amazing, transformative health benefits, perhaps mostly because many of us are doing it wrong when it comes to paying attention to our food and lifestyle choices.

Here is the Caltons' three-step plan for using micronutrients to reach your optimal health, in order of importance.

1. "Switch to rich."

"You need to find the most micronutrient-rich foods, regardless off what your dietary profile is," says Mira. "If you're paleo, you're not interested in dairy, but that means you still have to find the highest-quality and nutrient-rich options for your vegetables and your proteins. And that you can find regardless of your dietary profile."

Here, they make the point that rich food is not always the same as real food, giving the example of an apple. An apple is real food, but, compared to an organic apple, a conventionally grown apple won't do the same things for your body. Mira explains that the average regular apple is exposed to 42 pesticides, and your body needs to spend micronutrients and antioxidants to respond to that high toxic load.

"Your benefit per dollar is much greater when you go organic," she says, and it's a shame that people don't use the same return-on-investment strategies in the supermarket as they use in the boardroom. "They say 'That costs a couple dollars more, and I'll buy the cheaper one,' but you're not getting anything out of it," she says. The point is, whatever you pay for rich food, you'll likely save way more in healthcare costs later.

2. Drive down depletion.

"There are a lot of things in your lifestyle and things that you do right now that you don't realize is depleting you of nutrients," says Jayson. For instance, he points out that, though exercise is good, you're not just burning calories; you're also burning calcium, zinc and potassium.

Other examples of lifestyle choices that deplete your micronutrients are living in a polluted city or smoking, taking over-the-counter or prescription meds, and drinking coffee. Jayson points out that there are a lot of benefits to coffee, but it's important to know the cost of those benefits.

"We're not saying you need to cut anything out, but be aware," he says. "Do a little tallying: If you have more coming out than you have coming in, over time, you're going to have a big problem."

3. Be smart about supplementation.

After you've maxed the nutrients you get from food and minimized your micronutrient deficiencies, you can consider supplements to fill in any gaps using the Caltons' ABC's to eliminate the flaws in multivitamins.

A—Absorption

Mira explains that it's much harder for the body to absorb nutrients from pills than it is to absorb them from liquids, so consider finding a multivitamin powder that you can dissolve in water.

B—Beneficial Quantities and Forms

The typical multi doesn't have the right levels or the right forms of the essential nutrients, Jayson explains, because they're too bulky and expensive. For instance, if there's a megadose of a particular nutrient, it's a good indication that it's not in the right form for your body to absorb, so those nutrients will be wasted.

C—Competition of Micronutrients

"This is the game-changer," says Jayson. "The medical research has shown that there are certain vitamins and minerals that are antagonists—so they compete with each other for absorption in the GI tract, but no one has mapped this out." So the Caltons spent about two years going through peer-reviewed articles and found about 45 micronutrient competitions in a typical multivitamin that reduce absorption or utilization. For instance, vitamin D competes with vitamin A for absorption.

S—Synergy of Micronutrients

"Once you get rid of the competitions, the other thing we found in those peer-reviewed studies was that there are specific nutrients that help with the absorption of others," says Jayson. The most commonly known one is that vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, but it also helps with the absorption of zinc.

Knowing the competitions and synergies will help you pair your food and supplements intelligently.

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Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

Archer Daniels Midland soy silos in Mato Grosso along the BR-163 highway, where Amazon rainforest has largely been replaced by soy destined for the EU, UK, China and other international markets.

Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY

Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.

Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."

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