Even health-conscious people can be nutrient-deficient, expert says

Dr. Steven Masley
Dr. Steven Masley
Published July 25, 2013

Whether you're a runner, walker, cyclist or swimmer, you can find lots of company at our most popular trails, pools and parks.

Looking at all those energetic exercisers, you may figure most of them eat well.

Or maybe not.

"About 80 percent are nutritionally deficient,'' Dr. Steven Masley told me.

But not for lack of trying.

"They're focused on protein, fat and carbs, and looking for some weird, precise ratio.''

What we should care about, he says, are the nutrients that help generate energy, keep arteries working properly and support all the other functions that go into maintaining health and preventing disease.

Masley knows a lot about nutrition, athletic performance and aging. The St. Petersburg physician has written three books, including the bestselling Ten Years Younger, and has more than a dozen peer-reviewed research papers to his credit. He sees patients at his Masley Optimal Health Center at St. Anthony's Carillon center.

He's speaking at BayCare's sports medicine conference next weekend. His topic: The top 10 nutrient deficiencies that affect performance and aging in "seasoned athletes'' — a nice label for those of us doing our best to keep moving.

Masley's all for working out. But, he said, "I don't just want to improve athletic performance. I don't want my patients to get cancer, or have a heart attack.''

You'll see the doctor's top 10 deficiencies listed here. The one we talked most about was vitamin D, the Sunshine Vitamin that's in short supply for many of us. Research has connected this deficiency with everything from cancer and heart disease to bone and muscle health.

The solution: Have your doctor test your blood levels to see if you're lacking, and if so, take a good supplement.

"Why wouldn't you do that?'' Masley exclaimed.

Good question. Especially for someone like me. I had that test and was instructed to take supplements. Which I did for a while and then I lost interest.

So Masley's question got me thinking about what is at times my own biggest health deficiency: motivation.

Masley agreed it's crucial.

"I'm interested in helping those people who are motivated,'' he told me. "It's not that I don't care about the others. I probably spent the first 15 years of my career working with those folks and I had terrible results.

"I was trying to help everyone, and was accomplishing nothing.''

Working with people motivated to live healthfully is a different game entirely for the doctor, who says he's seen more successes in the past year than ever. He's collecting data for his latest study, on combating arterial plaque through nutrition and fitness. "I have hundreds of patients who've shrunk their artery age by 10 years,'' he said, the excitement plain in his voice.

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After our conversation, I bought some vitamin D3 and put it right next to my toothbrush. I've taken it every day. For me, feeling foolish — why wouldn't I take a little supplement with a lot of science behind it? — is a powerful motivator.

Reader Judy Kramer shared her solution with me: She pasted a photo of her family to the notebook in which she tracks her exercise. Seeing her kids and grandkids gets her going every time.

What gets you going on your health goals? Let's talk about it. Maybe we can all get healthier together.