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Triage Theory

Nutrient triage between tissues

Triage of nutrients a cause of disease?

Nutrient insufficiency causing nutrient diversion to critical organs

Triage - definition

The word Triage derives from the French word trier which means to sort or select – and essentially to prioritize patients depending on the severity of their medical or surgical condition.

Professor Bruce Ames from the University of California, Berkeley has developed a theory on the triaging of nutrients in the body  in the setting of chronic nutrient insufficiency ie a poor intake of micronutrients that then creates a dilemma for the body.

In this situation, the body has to prioritize the distribution of a precious and rare commodity from areas of less critical need to organs that are vital for the organism to survive.

Thus in the setting of a chronic iron deficiency state, iron will be diverted from various tissues in the body say to the heart enabling the individual to at least function albeit in a sub-optimal way.

Professor Ames is famous for the Ames test a biological assay to check for  the mutagenicity of compounds. In other words to check if a particular chemical will act as a carcinogen [cancer producing chemical].

Prof Ames made the following statement in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“If this hypothesis is correct, micronutrient deficiencies that trigger the triage response would accelerate cancer, aging, and neural decay but would leave critical metabolic functions, such as ATP production, intact,” 

Scientific support for the theory

Professor Ames along with Dr Joyce McCann PhD applied this theory to Vitamin K and described this in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 90, pp. 889-907).

There are 16 known Vit K dependent proteins of which 5 are critical - in other words without any one of these, the organism would die. However, another 5 are non-critical. Insufficiency of vitamin K would triage this precious resource to critically dependent proteins and can lead to bone weakness, hardening and calcification of the arteries and an increased cardiovascular risk.

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