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The Heights vitamin deficiency study—the story so far

We've conducted our own scientific nutrition study to research the effects of our Smart Supplement.
Sophie Medlin
Head of Nutritional Research
November 05, 2020
5 min read

This September we kicked off our first ever scientific nutrition study to widen our knowledge of nutrient and vitamin deficiencies. We’ve been wanting to conduct this study for a long time, and it’s a unique opportunity for us to commission the research needed to delve this deeply. 

We are just at the beginning of this journey, and are working with an incredible laboratory to help us understand the results and process the information. Up to now, we’ve discovered some interesting, surprising, and amazing things—here’s what can share so far:

Why is a nutrient deficiency study important?

This kind of study is important because many vitamin deficiencies are not routinely tested in blood work, and we felt it was vitally important to find out what’s really happening. At the very best, doctors will test for iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D deficiencies—but very little else is known about other vitamin deficiencies in the blood. 

Who are the participants?

Involved in the trial is a cohort of 17 people. They’re aged between 25 - 55, and follow a fairly even mixture of omnivorous and vegan diets. 

What are we testing?

Our study is looking to assess the baseline vitamin, mineral, and fatty acids in the average person. To get a full understanding, we ran a full B-vitamin panel, Selenium, Iron, vitamin D, and an in-depth fatty acids panel. 

The areas we’ll be assessing throughout the study will be blood test results, and their self-reported mood, stress and well-being. 

What we’ve found so far—the lows

Breaking news: B vitamin deficiencies are more common than we thought

Despite it being generally accepted by the medical community that deficiencies in B vitamins such as thiamine and riboflavin are very rare, 70% of our cohort were deficient or borderline deficient in thiamine and 88% were deficient in riboflavin. 

In my 13-year career, I have never seen tests being done for vitamin B1 and B2. This isn't something generally tested in healthy people, as the assumption is we are not deficient in these areas. This suggests that maybe something has changed in modern diets to cause these deficiencies, for example, eating less bread.

These two B vitamins are really important for the conversion of food into energy for our cells and for the production of melatonin which is the hormone that promotes sleep. 

So common symptoms like lethargy, lack of focus, and low mood could all be impacted by deficits like this—that, until now, we didn’t know existed.

Learn more about vitamin B1 and vitamin B2 in the Smart Supplement, and how they impact the brain. 

Omega 3 levels are generally low—in vegans and omnivores

All but one of our study subjects had a lower than ideal omega 3 index. This means that the balance of fats in the diet isn’t favourable for long term heart and brain health. This could be due to a combination of the use of coconut and palm oils in vegan foods, and animal fats for omnivores—along with inadequate oily fish or algae intake.

Learn more about how omega 3 in Heights can protect brain and heart health in the long-term.

Vitamin D was surprisingly low

Considering it was the end of the summer, only 5 people in our initial results had adequate vitamin D levels. This has repercussions for bone health, immunity and balancing mood. The lower levels could be due to people isolating indoors during lockdown, or holidays being cancelled—resulting in lower than usual sun exposure. 

Learn more about the role of vitamin D3, and the dose available in the Smart Supplement.

What we’ve found so far—the highs

B12 levels were generally good

Contrary to popular belief, vitamin B12 levels were generally good with only four borderline deficiencies, all among the vegan participants. This may be due to fortification of B12 in vegan products or more messaging around the risk of B12 deficiency for vegans. 

Learn more about how vitamin B12 can impact the brain.

Only one borderline iron deficiency

One of the more commonly tested deficiencies, iron actually had positive results. Only one borderline case of iron deficiency emerged from our study results—which could be reassuring for those on a plant-based diet.

Learn more about iron and cognitive function.

These are really exciting results so far, we didn't find the common deficiencies we expected to see, but instead uncovered something completely unexpected—which indicates the importance of well-rounded nutrition. 

When formulating the Smart Supplement, we’ve always stuck to the science and part of that means conducting our own research. Never happy to stick with the status quo—we knew it was vital to not only look where people have looked before. 

We’re so happy we did because as a result, we’ve uncovered something that no-one was looking for—that also reinforces the need for nutrients like B vitamins, that are of the utmost importance to the health of the brain (and the body, too).

Stay tuned for more updates as we get them.

Want to know more about what your brain needs to thrive? Get the lowdown from our Chief Science Officer, Dr. Tara Swart.

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