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Advice that Food is Enough Cheats Americans from Getting Vital Nutrients

By Kevin Lamberg


Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., knows that many Americans are not getting enough key nutrients from their diet alone. To prove her point, Dr. Low Dog, a nationally recognized integrative medicine physician, author and speaker cited data from the CDC’s Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population¹ to congressional staffers at a Sept. 9, 2015 educational briefing.

The data indicates that:

  • 90 million Americans have a vitamin D deficiency
  • 30 million Americans are deficient in vitamin B6
  • 18 million Americans are deficient in vitamin B12
  • 16 million Americans have very low  vitamin C

“Americans are not getting enough of the essential nutrients they need for optimum health,” Dr. Low Dog said. This statement is also supported by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data. In its latest update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010), the agency announced that the average intake of “nutrients of concern” is so low that it is considered a widespread public health epidemic.²

Even more startling, the foods that we eat are less nutritious than they previously were. The USDA tested 43 foods and found that every one provided less nutrition than values listed in the 1950s. This means that even if the average American consumed the USDA suggested serving of fruits and vegetables daily, the density of nutrients and the purity of those fruits and vegetables would make it difficult to get enough of the daily value of essential nutrients.

Why is our food less nutritious? There are likely several factors contributing to this phenomenon including:  the widespread use of pesticides, herbicides, GMO technology, long haul transportation, and nutrient depleted soil.  

After using data to illustrate why food alone is not enough to ensure proper nutrition, Dr. Low Dog read an extensive list of whole foods the average person would need to eat in order to obtain the minimum recommended amount of many individual nutrients. For example, to get the recommended 18mg of iron women need, she would need to consume in one day:  

  • Four cups of raisins
  • Fifteen cups of broccoli
  • Three cups of cooked spinach
  • Ten ounces of beef liver
  • 45 ounces of chicken breast


It is unreasonable to expect Americans to get all the nutrients they need from food alone. And as Dr. Low Dog noted, for low-income Americans it can be particularly difficult when the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is approved to purchase candy and soda, but not a multivitamin.

“I’m extremely concerned when I hear misleading soundbites on the evening news that people don’t need vitamins because they get all the nutrients they need from their diet, because it isn’t just patients who hear this. Doctors also hear it repeatedly,” Dr. Low Dog said. “This mantra that Americans are getting all the nutrients they need from food is simply not true. It is harder than you think to get the nutrients you need from food alone.”

Learn why vitamin D deficiencies are increasing in many populations.

Data from the CDC shows that tens of millions of Americans aren’t getting enough essential nutrients to ensure their bodies function optimally, a stark contrast to headlines and soundbites that assert Americans get all the nutrients they need from food alone. In the past, a number of unintended consequences have contributed to vitamin and mineral deficiencies as a result of well-intentioned health campaigns. For instance, advice to avoid nutrient-rich foods like egg yolks has led to low intake of choline, a nutrient that plays a role in preventing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and is critically important during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, Dr. Low Dog added.

In presenting this information, Dr. Low Dog is calling for a thoughtful, coordinated approach between industry and public health initiatives to address the many complex factors like lower nutrient content in today’s foods.

Read more on Dr. Tieraona Low Dog and view previously recorded webinars on Women’s Health, Health Consequences of the American Diet, Life Fortified, The Case for Dietary Supplements, Heart Health, Taming Inflammation and more.

Watch Now

The CDC data was presented by Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., nationally recognized physician, author and speaker, to congressional staffers at a Sept. 9, 2015 educational briefing. Hear her recorded presentation, “Life Fortified: A Physician’s Case for Dietary Supplements,” for  the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus (DSC), held in cooperation with the leading trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry including the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the Natural Products Association (NPA), and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA).


[1] CDC Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population. Accessed online at

[2] Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, Executive Summary. Accessed online at

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