Table of Contents
What are Nutrient Interrelationships?
The term, Nutrient Interrelationships, simply denotes that every nutrient – whether it is an element (commonly referred to as a mineral), vitamin, amino acid, or fatty acid – possesses a dynamic interrelationship with numerous other nutrients in order to function properly. As such:
No single nutrient works by itself!
Unequivocally, nutrient interrelationships are the most important and absolute fundamentals in soil, plant, animal, and human nutrition.
NOTE: It is well beyond the scope of this page to address all the known nutrient interrelationships that exist between elements (commonly referred to as minerals), vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acids. As such, we will only provide a brief and limited explanation of the complexity of mineral relationships as well as a few examples. This is a primary topic pointed out during a consultation.
Nutrient interrelationships are complex.
First, it is important to realize that even today (2023), nutritional science does not recognize the role of all nutrients, nutrient interrelationships, nor possess an understanding of many of the mechanisms involved in human nutrition.
Yes, human nutrition is that complex!
However, let’s review some of the simpler fundamentals of nutrient interrelationships that includes:
- An excess or deficiency of one nutrient effects the requirements for many other nutrients.
- Excessive intake of one nutrient may interfere with the metabolism of several others.
- Increasing a deficient nutrient may require an increase of several other nutrients.
- Decreasing an excessive nutrient may require an increase of several other nutrients.
- Many nutrients require other nutrients to convert into other forms (enzymes, derivatives, or metabolites).
Now, let’s look at some of the more complex fundamentals of nutrient interrelationships that includes:
- Chemical combinations or reactions between nutrients change their biological availability.
- Direct metabolic requirements of one nutrient can change the biological activity of another.
- Structurally similar nutrients can compete with each other for absorption and utilization.
- One nutrient can replace another with a different action although similar in function.
- Toxic elements and chemical toxins increase the complexity of nutrient interrelationships.
- Pharmaceuticals (and OTC meds) interfere with many nutrients (drug-induced deficiencies/excesses).
- Pharmaceuticals and OTC meds commonly contain toxic elements.
- Nutrient transporters are required for absorption and cellular utilization (an extremely complex subject).
As you can see from this short example, Chaos Theory (Butterfly Effect: Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions) is probably more applicable in human nutrition than any other science!
Soil science – the genesis of human nutrition!
Why are your cows happy and healthy and mine are sick and dying? Soil science revealed the answer!
Our soils (nutrient/toxic composition) are fundamental for plant, animal, and human nutrition. However, due to the earth’s geology (as well as agriculture practices), nutrient composition varies greatly. Keep in mind, this does not necessarily mean from continent to continent but may actually occur from acre to acre.
Investigating nutrient interrelationships was well underway by the early 1900’s and thanks to technological advancements such as hair analysis in the 1960’s, further complex advancements occurred during the twentieth century.
As one of the many nutrient researchers, the late Dr. William Albrecht (The Albrecht Papers), renowned soil science professor at the University of Missouri, was instrumental in advancing nutrient interrelationships during the early to mid 1900’s.
Plants, just like you, require a dynamic balance of nutrients to be healthy. They, too, will suffer when any nutrient is excessive or deficient.
Dr. Albrecht’s philosophy was healthy soils produce healthy plants, which produce healthy animals and humans.
“We are what we eat” and “what we eat depends on the soil that produces it,” declares Dr. William A. Albrecht, University of Missouri. “Human health troubles often come from poor nutrition which weakens the body. With its defenses down the body is less able to resist the attacks of bacteria and other forces.” ~ CASS CITY CHRONICLE—FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 1947.
Nutrient interrelationships are communal relationships.
A simple way to view nutrients is to think of all nutrients as families (e.g., elements/minerals family, vitamins family, amino acids family, fatty acids family, etc.) existing in a tight-knit community. They work, play, and live in this community. If even one member of any family is missing, the whole community ultimately suffers!
Before proceeding, you are familiar with the most publicized nutrient interrelationship that exists between calcium and vitamin D. Unfortunately, what is NOT so widely publicized is the fact that calcium, (like every nutrient) requires myriad other nutrients to be metabolically effective in all pathways that require calcium.
The graphic at the top, courtesy of Dr. Watts (Trace Elements Inc.), reveals nutrient interrelationships between minerals and vitamins. As you can see, every nutrient has numerous arrows pointing toward other nutrients. In most instances, the arrows point in both directions.
When the arrows point in both directions, it means each of those nutrients have a two-way (or biphasic) relationship with each other. This simply means that if either nutrient becomes excessive, it will produce an antagonistic or an over-powering effect on the other nutrient.
If the arrow points in one direction only, it means the secondary nutrient, if excessive, will not produce an antagonistic effect on the primary nutrient (e.g., the graphic reveals cadmium pointing toward calcium yet calcium does not point toward cadmium).
Keep in mind, if any nutrient becomes excessive or deficient for any reason (e.g., diet, supplements, stress, toxins, medications, transporters, etc.), it will disrupt the community interrelationships of all nutrients.
“Minerals have interrelationships with every other nutrient. Without optimum mineral levels in the body, the other nutrients are not effectively utilized”. Diet And Disease (1968), Dr. Emanuel Cheraskin (author / coauthor of over 700 publications in international science journals and 25 books)
Nutrient interrelationships: 4 fundamentals you should know.
Nutrients have four fundamental or basic interrelationships that includes synergistic, antagonistic, direct/inverse, and indirect. Each relationship is diverse, dynamic, and equally important.
A synergistic relationship implies that specific nutrients are working together – a positive effect between nutrients. They are in a dynamic balance and serving their intended purposes throughout all mental and physical metabolic pathways.
The synergistic relationship is the most important relationship because it denotes a dynamic balance between nutrients!
For example, the Branch Chained Amino Acids (isoleucine, leucine, valine) require vitamins B1, B2, B6, biotin (Vitamin H – a B vitamin), magnesium, copper, and AKG as “cofactors” to fulfill specific metabolic functions. If each of these nutrients are in a dynamic balance, each metabolic pathway is fulfilled to its greatest potential.
An antagonistic relationship implies that specific nutrients are NOT working together – a negative effect between nutrients. Antagonistic relationships occur naturally and on many levels.
On the natural level, not all nutrients play well together. This relationship exists within the “families” of nutrients as well.
For example, certain minerals are naturally antagonistic toward other minerals. Certain vitamins are naturally antagonistic toward other vitamins. Certain amino acids are naturally antagonistic toward other amino acids and so on.
Like siblings within a family, there are usually antagonistic relationships. This doesn’t mean they don’t depend on each other in the family unit or community, it is just an antagonistic relationship – “there’s just something about you I don’t like!”
Nutrient antagonisms also occur naturally between nutrient families.
In addition, nutrient antagonisms naturally occur through competition during absorption, retention, excretion, utilization, or if any nutrient becomes excessive or deficient.
For example, as seen in stress, when sodium becomes excessive during the alarm stress response, it produces an antagonistic effect on magnesium and zinc (and many vitamins and amino acids as well).
A direct/inverse relationship implies nutrient balances between specific nutrients. These relationships are denoted as ratios. Ratios are more often of greater importance than nutrient levels alone.
A direct relationship implies that synergistic nutrients may increase or decrease simultaneously without affecting the ratio between nutrients. An inverse relationship implies an excess of one and/or a decrease of another will create an imbalanced ratio.
For example, calcium has a direct relationship (including synergistic and antagonistic) with phosphorus. This is the Ca/P ratio and the ideal ratio is 2.60:1.
If both calcium and phosphorous increase or decrease (an excess or deficiency) simultaneously, the ratio remains the same – a direct relationship. If either nutrient, for whatever reason, becomes excessive or deficient the ratio becomes imbalanced (e.g. 3.80:1 = a high ratio or 1.72:1 = a low ratio) – an inverse relationship.
An indirect relationship implies that any nutrient can negatively affect another nutrient even though it does not possess a synergistic, antagonistic, direct/inverse relationship or required as a cofactor.
For example, many people consume vitamin A to improve eyesight; however, vitamin A has an antagonistic relationship with vitamin D. Vitamin D has a direct relationship with calcium and assists absorption, retention, and utilization.
Vitamin A and vitamin D exhibit a complex relationship that occurs at the molecular transcription level, where they can have stimulatory or inhibitory effects on each other. Therefore, 0verconsuming vitamin A may interfere with the metabolic activity of vitamin D that in turn, may greatly increase or reduce calcium levels. Either result, as you know, may potentially contribute toward osteoporosis.
In addition, the resulting calcium excess or deficiency now interferes with the direct relationships between calcium and the other minerals (e.g., magnesium, zinc, iron, sodium, potassium, etc.) and vitamins (e.g., C, E, B3, B5, etc.) normally synergistic with calcium.
Calcium does not possess a direct relationship with vitamin A but this reveals the potential effects of an indirect interrelationship.
As you can see, at some point each nutrient ultimately effects another nutrient through one or more of these nutrient interrelationships.
“In 1963, and for that matter during the years immediately ahead of us, there is not a more important topic in nutrition than the effect of nutrient interrelationships…”
Lloyd, L. E. “Nutrient interrelationships as they affect the formulation of balanced diets.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 23.01 (1964): 45-53. Source: Cambridge Journals
Mills, C. F. “Metabolic interrelationships in the utilization of trace elements.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 23.01 (1964): 38-45. Source: Cambridge Journals
Do toxic elements interfere with nutrient interrelationships?
All toxic elements interfere with nutrient interrelationships through antagonistic, direct, and indirect relationships. All toxins, elemental or chemical, are antagonistic toward nutritional nutrients.
In fact, many toxic elements can replace nutritional elements (preferred elements) in many metabolic pathways! This is referred to as molecular mimicry and emphasizes the importance of optimal nutrition that maintains the most effective detox program.
Other factors that interfere with nutrient interrelationships.
Toxins are not the only factors that interfere with nutrient interrelationships. In reality, almost everything in your inner and outer environment can affect the dynamic interrelationships between nutrients. Examples include:
- Your neuroendocrine dominance (sympathetic/parasympathetic neuroendocrine systems)
- Digestive issues
- Improper food choices
- Improper dietary supplementation
- Medications (prescription and OTC)
- Personality traits (thoughts and emotions)
- Chemical toxins
- Air quality, water quality
These are just a few examples of the more common factors that can interfere with nutrient interrelationships.
Let us explore calcium a little deeper.
Unfortunately, calcium is probably the most over-consumed mineral in our society normally for bone health, therefore, it may prove beneficial to realize some of the ramifications associated with the over-consumption of calcium.
Keep in mind, your total daily calcium intake is the result of foods naturally containing calcium, calcium “fortified and enriched” foods, calcium supplements, and so on.
This is an enlargement of the previous graphic and due to size restraints, may be a bit difficult to see. Our apologies.
Before proceeding, keep in mind this graphic is a simple and effective depiction of interrelationships that is not all inclusive of amino acids, fatty acids, etc.
As you can see, the arrows are pointing from calcium (Ca at the top and going clockwise) to iron (Fe), copper (Cu), potassium (K), manganese (Mn), magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn), sodium (Na), and phosphorous (P).
When the arrowheads are pointing in both directions toward one another, it indicates a biphasic or two-way relationship.
For example, the arrowhead from Ca (calcium) points to Mg (magnesium) at the bottom (just to the left) and the arrowhead from Mg points back to Ca.
This means calcium (Ca) has a direct/inverse relationship with magnesium. If both minerals are in proper amounts (Ca/Mg ratio), the result is a synergistic (direct) relationship. However, if either calcium or magnesium becomes excessive or deficient, the result becomes an antagonistic (inverse) relationship.
In addition, if calcium becomes excessive, the antagonistic relationships extend beyond calcium and magnesium. As seen in the graph, excessive calcium can now become antagonistic to iron, potassium, manganese, zinc, sodium, and phosphorous.
In addition, you can see that the arrow from calcium also points to manganese (Mn) but manganese does not point back to calcium. As such, an excess of calcium will antagonize manganese but an excess of manganese does not directly antagonize calcium.
As you can see, the over-consumption of calcium results in the potential for myriad nutrient imbalances. This also reveals the effects on the synergistic relationships of all vitamins, fats, and amino acids for each of these minerals.
This is only one example of the complex and dynamic interrelationships between all nutrients and reveals the ramifications of over- or under-consuming any nutrient. As such, do not be fooled by the myths that you can consume any nutrient (water soluble or not!) excessively without ramifications.
The simple fact is that there are ramifications when you over-consume any single nutrient or nutrients!
Note: You can place any nutrient at the top of the example and expand the interrelationships to include minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acids.
As stated by Vitale, “Determining nutritional interrelationships is much more important than knowing mineral levels alone. From a global standpoint, although dietary deficiency is at the more serious end of the spectrum, the opposite end, dietary excess and aberrations contribute to the burden of disease.”
Let’s go a little deeper with a few more examples of nutrient interrelationships.
Many people arbitrarily consume dietary amino acid supplements without the use of a laboratory analysis. As such, let’s investigate a few examples of the nutrient interrelationships and cofactor requirements for amino acids to be metabolically functional.
- Phenylalanine – biopterin, iron, copper, B3, B6, and C
- Tyrosine (manufactured from phenylalanine) – biopterin, ADPH, NADH (forms of niacin), copper, and vitamin C
- Tryptophan – hydroxylase (requiring biopterin, B6, and magnesium) and B3
- Methionine – vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid (folate or B9)
- Taurine – B6 (zinc and manganese build and increase its effects, cell transport facilitator for sodium and potassium, possibly calcium and magnesium)
- BCAA’s (isoleucine, leucine, valine) vitamin B6, B1, B2, biotin (Vitamin H – a B vitamin), magnesium, copper, and AKG
- Lysine – B2, B3, B6, – Vitamin C and iron assist absorption/utilization
- Citrulline – requires zinc and B6 for conversion to arginine
- Glutamine synthetase is a manganese-containing enzyme. Manganese is important for the synthesis of glutamine and metabolism of glutamic acid.
As you can see on this page and throughout the website, minerals are fundamental. These are just a few examples of the intimate interrelationships between amino acids, minerals, and vitamins.
How does your hair analysis factor nutrient interrelationships?
As we state in why test for minerals, minerals are foundational in nutrition. As such, a hair analysis reveals two key factors for nutrient interrelationships.
- Nutritional excesses and deficiencies (macro and micro-elements)
- The presence of toxic elements
By knowing your current mineral/toxic element status, the dynamic interrelationships that exist between all essential nutrients are applied through the database. As such, minerals as well as vitamins, fats, and amino acids become important cofactors required to rebalance your essential nutritional elements.
Our comprehensive analysis, based on your specific results, provides a list of healthy foods to increase or avoid as well as supplement recommendations.
NOTE: This information is only revealed in our comprehensive analyses.
So, are you ready to check your mineral levels?
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The content and laboratory services provided on this site are for educational and informational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease.
Copyrighted graphics on this page used by permission from Trace Elements Inc.
REFERENCES – NUTRIENT INTERRELATIONSHIPS
“In 1963, and for that matter during the years immediately ahead of us, there is not a more important topic in nutrition than the effect of nutrient interrelationships…”
Nutrient interrelationships as they affect the formulation of balanced diets. L. E. LLOYD, Department of Animal Science, Macdonald College (McGill University), Province of Quebec, Canada, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=784400&fileId=S002966516400012X
“Establishment of the requirements for a particular nutrient is complicated by numerous interrelationships with other nutrients in the diet. In many cases deficiency or excess of one nutrient influences the requirement for others.”
Nutrient interrelationships. Wise, A., Journal; Nutrition Abstracts and Reviews, A and B 1980 Vol. 50 No. 5 pp. 319-332, Record Number, 20063033454; http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/20063033454.html;jsessionid=0B42D8240BAB74843B99BF5DEF65269E
“Nutrient balancing in micronutrients is as important and yet more difficult than balancing between macronutrients.”
Interaction of micronutrients with major nutrients with special reference to potassium. UJWALA RANADE-MALVI Institute for Micronutrient Technology, Pune – 411 048, India, Karnataka J. Agric. Sci.,24 (1) : (106-109) 2011; https://www.1stfruits.co.za/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Interaction-of-micronutrients-with-major-nutrients-with-special-reference-to-potassium.pdf
“A healthy diet should contain all of the required nutrients and sufficient calories to balance energy expenditure and provide for growth and maintenance throughout the life cycle.”
Interrelationships of food, nutrition, diet and health: the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges White Paper. Bidlack WR. J Am Coll Nutr. 1996 Oct;15(5):422-33.
“For example, the nutritive values of proteins are usually determined under conditions ensuring their maximal utilization, but such studies do not adequately represent the fate of protein in natural diets, in which not only are the absorbed amino acids derived from several foods, but the nutritive value of the mixture is affected by the amounts of other dietary constituents, such as the energy-yielding nutrients, the minerals and the vitamins.”
Interrelationships of nutrients. Chairman : H. N. MUNRO EsQ., MB, DSc, FRSE, Department of Biochemistry, University of Glasgow, First Session 26 July 1963
“We are what we eat” and “what we eat depends on the soil that produces it,” declares Dr. William A. Albrecht, University of Missouri. “Human health troubles often come from poor nutrition which weakens the body. With its defenses down the body is less able to resist the attacks of bacteria and other forces.” CASS CITY CHRONICLE—FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 1947.
“Thus, when one considers the essentiality of dietary nutrients for the innumerable and complex physiologic functions of the body, in both the healthy and the diseased state, including those specifically related to drug metabolism, it is not surprising that considerable interest has developed in drug-nutrient interrelationships. This has been evidenced by several recent symposia, review articles, and books (Miller, 1976; Roe, 1976; Hartshorn, 1977; Hathcock and Coon, 1978)”.
Mueller, J.F. (1980). Drug-Nutrient Interrelationships. In: Alfin-Slater, R.B., Kritchevsky, D. (eds) Nutrition and the Adult. Human Nutrition, vol 3B. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-7216-9_9
Couzy F, Keen C, Gershwin ME, Mareschi JP. Nutritional implications of the interactions between minerals. Prog Food Nutr Sci. 1993 Jan-Mar;17(1):65-87. PMID: 8502756.Nutritional implications of the interactions between minerals. (good diet article) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8502756
Hypercalcemia and vitamin A: A vitamin to keep in mind. Saif Munther Borgan, MD, Leila Zeinab Khan, MD and Vinni Makin, MD, FACE, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, February 2022, 89 (2) 99-105; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3949/ccjm.89a.21056
Vitamin A Antagonizes Calcium Response to Vitamin D in Man., S. Johansson and H. Melhus, JOURNAL OF BONE AND MINERAL RESEARCH Volume 16, Number 10, 2001© 2001, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research https://asbmr.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1359/jbmr.2001.16.10.1899
The role of diet- and host-related factors in nutrient bioavailability and thus in nutrient-based dietary requirement estimates. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17521121
Older adults who use vitamin/mineral supplements differ from nonusers in nutrient intake adequacy and dietary attitudes. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17659898
Relationships between vitamin and mineral supplement use, dietary intake, and dietary adequacy among adolescents. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10955048
Nutrition and the immune system: a review of nutrient-nutrient interactions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8906141
Zinc effects on nutrient / nutrient interactions and trends in health and ageing https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/61770_en.html
Vitamin C-related nutrient–nutrient and nutrient–gene interactions that modify folate status https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00394-012-0359-8
Nutrient-nutrient interactions in the small intestine (fructose and bone degeneration) http://grantome.com/grant/NSF/IOS-1121049
Interaction of vitamins and minerals. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1822072
The Interaction between Nutrition and Infection https://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/46/10/1582.full
[Interactions of trace elements during their metabolism]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10509449
Vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/vitamin-d-and-other-vitamins-and-minerals/#