Evidence suggests that micronutrient deficiencies are common in populations throughout the Western nations. Research suggests this is likely a result of mineral deficient soils used in agriculture in combination with increased consumption of refined foods. In addition, accelerated excretion of certain vitamins and minerals is associated with high stress levels as may be found in modern living or during intense exercise. In particular, intense physical activity may accelerate the rate at which certain antioxidant vitamins are excreted because of the increase in oxidative stress associated with exhaustive exercise. The obvious solution to this problem is to eat a high quality diet rich in antioxidant nutrients or to use dietary supplements, And some research suggests that this is an effective strategy to increase intakes specific micronutrients. Deficiencies of antioxidant nutrients may lead to degeneration and disease, or increased recovery time in athletes.
Researchers1 have investigated the micronutrient intakes of 19 marathon runners. Subjects had their plasma levels of antioxidant vitamins measured and diets analysed by use of 7-day food records. The results showed that ≈32% of the athletes had intakes of vitamin C, β-carotene and retinol equivalents below the French recommended daily intake. However, for α-tocopherol, the number of athletes consuming less than the daily requirement rose to ≈95%. In addition, the daily intake of energy was below that recommended for sedentary French individuals suggesting that the energy needs of the athletes were not being met. Although the athletes did not have vitamin deficiencies, it would appear that plasma concentrations were far from optimal. The mean plasma level for vitamin C was 65.27 µmol/L. However, a diet rich in vitamin C (300 mg/d) should raise plasma levels to around 80µmol/L, and a 1.25 gram supplement can raise levels of 138µmol/L.