That’s something you never hear from kids, right? Now I might not care.
I’m sure you have seen, and maybe even read, some stuff about soil depletion. It’s nothing new, been studied for years. Basically, the soil that we grow our plants and vegetables (the stuff we and animals eat) is rapidly being depleted of essential minerals. Why is that important?
Why is that important? We need minerals for 3 basic roles in our bodies.:
- They provide the structural materials for bones and tissue.
- They help escort electrical nerve impulses in the body.
- They play a role as catalysts of enzymes for replicating DNA.
We don’t produce minerals. We need to get them from our diet or supplements. The problem with getting them from our diet is that the foods that we eat no longer hold as many minerals in them. Plants absorb them from the soil, and because of commercial farming, plant hybrids that grow faster and bigger, pesticides, and the fact that year after year of plants taking minerals out of the soil, there isn’t much left.
Is this getting boring yet? Ok, I’m not into reading a bunch of technical stuff or writing about it either. I’m kind of a headline reader, and if I am interested, just want the bullet points, not the why behind the because. But this news article published in Politico caught my attention.
THE GREAT NUTRIENT COLLAPSE
Back in 1998, some science nerds were studying Zooplankton. What the heck are those you might say?
Zooplankton are microscopic animals that float in the world’s waters and eat algae, which are essentially tiny plants. Scientists found that they could make algae grow faster by shining more light onto them—increasing the food supply for the zooplankton, which should have flourished.(I want this job). But it didn’t work out that way. When the researchers shined more light on the algae, the algae grew faster, and the tiny animals had lots and lots to eat—but at a certain point they started struggling to survive. This was a paradox. More food should lead to more growth. How could more algae be a problem? The biologists had an idea of what was going on: The increased light was making the algae grow faster, but they ended up containing fewer of the nutrients the zooplankton needed to thrive. By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food. The zooplankton had plenty to eat, but their food was less nutritious, and so they were starving. Isn’t that weird?
I’ve never had a zooplankton for a pet, so not too hung up on them. But I think you are getting some idea. What are the bigger implications for those of us higher up on the food chain?
In the outside world, the problem isn’t that plants are suddenly getting more light: It’s that for years, they’ve been getting more carbon dioxide. Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide to grow. If shining more light results in faster-growing, less nutritious algae—junk-food algae whose ratio of sugar to nutrients was out of whack—then it seemed logical to assume that ramping up carbon dioxide might do the same. And it could also be playing out in plants all over the planet.
IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH, it’s been understood for some time that many of our most important foods have been getting less nutritious. Measurements of fruits and vegetables show that their minerals, vitamin and protein content has measurably dropped over the past 50 to 70 years. Researchers have generally assumed the reason is fairly straightforward: We’ve been breeding and choosing crops for higher yields, rather than nutrition, and higher-yielding crops—whether broccoli, tomatoes, or wheat—tend to be less nutrient-packed.
In 2004, a landmark study of fruits and vegetables found that everything from protein to calcium, iron and vitamin C had declined significantly across most garden crops since 1950. The researchers concluded this could mostly be explained by the varieties we were choosing to grow.
Before the industrial revolution, the earth’s atmosphere had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Last year, the planet crossed over the 400 parts per million threshold; scientists predict we will likely reach 550 parts per million within the next half-century—essentially twice the amount that was in the air when Americans started farming with tractors.
But as the zooplankton experiment showed, greater volume and better quality might not go hand-in-hand. In fact, they might be inversely linked. As best scientists can tell, this is what happens: Rising CO2 revs up photosynthesis, the process that helps plants transform sunlight to food. This makes plants grow, but it also leads them to pack in more carbohydrates like glucose at the expense of other nutrients that we depend on, like protein, iron and zinc.
If plants are packing more glucose, no wonder the world is dealing with an obesity epidemic. And it’s affecting more than us. Bees too.
Goldenrod, a wildflower many consider a weed, is extremely important to bees. It flowers late in the season, and its pollen provides an important source of protein for bees as they head into the harshness of winter. Since goldenrod is wild and humans haven’t bred it into new strains, it hasn’t changed over time as much as, say, corn or wheat. And the Smithsonian Institution also happens to have hundreds of samples of goldenrod, dating back to 1842, in its massive historical archive—which gave scientists a chance to figure out how one plant has changed over time.
They found that the protein content of goldenrod pollen has declined by a third since the industrial revolution—and the change closely tracks with the rise in CO2. Scientists have been trying to figure out why bee populations around the world have been in decline, which threatens many crops that rely on bees for pollination. This suggests that a decline in protein prior to winter could be an additional factor making it hard for bees to survive other stressors.
In 2014, scientists published a large, data-rich study in the journal Nature that looked at key crops grown at several sites in Japan, Australia and the United States that also found rising CO2 led to a drop in protein, iron, and zinc. Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average. The ratio of carbohydrates to minerals was going up. The plants, like the algae, were becoming junk food.
So if you, like me, are concerned about it, then I guess you realize that we are not getting enough of the essential things our bodies need from the food we eat. I have thought this way for years. In fact, I always thought I would just like to take a pill for dinner, kind of like the Jetsons. Now it may not be such a dumb idea.
I am not even going to get into the changing climate and the global warming debate. Whether we are causing the change in CO2 levels or not, the fact is that it has changed and with it a host of negative consequences.
What’s the best way to get what you need for minerals? Obviously, I brought up that you should be taking a multivitamin at a minimum. Years ago I studied something called Colloidal Minerals. A colloidal solution is where a material, like a mineral, is dispersed evenly in liquid and supposedly increases the bioavailability of that material. This dates way back into the 1930’s. I looked into it because I knew that food processing destroys most of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we need.
It all seems to make sense. We are getting more food to eat, yet are becoming less healthy, and a lot of people don’t know why they can’t control their weight even with eating a supposedly healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. I’m going to take another look at Colloidal Minerals.
I never really liked vegetables anyway.