Key Takeaways

  • All proteins and enzymes can be divided into two major classes: survival proteins and longevity proteins
  • The production of most proteins and enzymes is controlled by vitamins and minerals
  • Being deficient in some vitamins or minerals drives the body into a state where survival proteins will be favored while longevity proteins may be sacrificed. This mechanism is essential to ensure immediate survival, even at the cost of long-term health
  • A deficiency in longevity proteins eventually leads to a drastic increase in the incidence of age-related diseases

Actions to Consider

  • Make it a priority to get your recommended intake of the survival and longevity vitamins mentioned in the study. If needed, adjust your diet or look for a good multivitamin (and don’t forget that men and women have different recommended daily intakes of many vitamins, and that tolerable upper limit is important as well). Here’s a summary of what you should focus on based on the results of this study:

Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B6, B12, biotin, C, choline, D, E, folic acid, K, niacin, pantothenate.

Minerals/elements: calcium, chloride, chromium, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur, zinc.

  • After you tackle these essential micronutrients, try to get more of the 4 proposed longevity nutrients: ergothioneine (ESH), pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ), queuine, and carotenoids. There are no recommended daily intakes for these nutrients at the moment, but they are essential for long-term health and longevity.

Nutrients for survival, and nutrients for longevity

Even in developed countries, many people live in a state of considerable deficit in essential vitamins and minerals. Surprisingly, this tendency is seen in the age of fortified products and affordable dietary supplements.

To illustrate, here’s a list of the top nutrient deficiencies in the US:

  • Vitamin D: 70% of Americans are deficient
  • Vitamin E: 60% 
  • Vitamin K: 35%
  • Vitamin A: 34%
  • Vitamin C: 25%
  • Vitamin B6: 8%
  • Magnesium: 45%
  • Calcium: 38%
  • Zinc: 8%
  • Folate: 8%

The problem of nutrient deficiency goes way beyond the realm of healthy eating for the sake of weight, gastrointestinal health, or even immediate wellbeing.

In fact, it seems to have a lot to do with longevity.

What is the triage theory?

In medicine, triage is the process of classifying injuries or diseases by their urgency to decide whom to treat first when there’s an overwhelming number of casualties or patients. This approach focuses on getting the best results with limited resources (time, medication, experts). For example, a patient with a life-threatening but treatable wound would be operated on before a patient with a non-urgent injury or one that’s not treatable.

According to the triage theory, the body approaches many proteins in the same way.

Since the production of most proteins is controlled by vitamins and minerals (V/M), being deficient in these V/M would force the body to choose which proteins to produce and which to sacrifice.

For example, vitamin K is essential for producing both survival proteins (like blood clotting factors) and longevity proteins that are important for long-term health. If a person is deficient in vitamin K, their body will use the available nutrients to produce the essential proteins it needs for immediate survival. After that, if any vitamin K is left, longevity proteins may be produced. 

In a vitamin K-deficient individual, they won’t.

Based on this theory, scientists propose dividing all V/M into two general groups:

  • Those that support both survival and longevity (and thus subjected to triaging)
  • Those that support general health and longevity without an emphasis on immediate survival

Survival and longevity vitamins vulnerable to triaging

Here’s a short list of vitamins and minerals that the authors of the study propose as survival and longevity nutrients. They may be subjected to triaging when consumed in inadequate amounts:

Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B6, B12, biotin, C, choline, D, E, folic acid, K, niacin, pantothenate.

Minerals/elements: calcium, chloride, chromium, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur, zinc.

Longevity nutrients and vitamins

Besides the described survival/longevity nutrients, the authors proposed 4 nutrients to be classified as specifically longevity compounds, since they aren’t involved in any immediate survival processes. These include:

Ergothioneine (ESH), an antioxidant present in virtually all human cells. ESH levels decline dramatically past the age of 80, and individuals with impaired cognition also have significantly lower ergothioneine levels. Moderate food sources of ESH (1 mg/kg wet weight) include chicken, pork, lamb, beef. Rich sources of ESH (>3 mg/kg) include oat brain, red kidney bean, and black turtle bean.

Pyrroloquinoline Quinone (PQQ) is another powerful antioxidant that seems to be necessary for mitochondrial health and long-term energy metabolism regulation. PQQ is synthesized by the bacteria present in the soil, and then absorbed and stored in plants. There is some evidence pointing that PQQ may be beneficial for diabetes, cognition, and lowering inflammation levels.

Queuine is an evolutionary ancient nutrient important for the production of many neurotransmitters and amino acids in the body. Some studies revealed its impact on cognitive and neurodegenerative processes, with one paper reporting that queuine supplementation caused a full remission from multiple sclerosis in an animal model. Dietary sources of queuine include wheat, tomatoes, coconut water, and milk (cow, goat, human).

Carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, α- and β-carotene, and β-cryptoxanthin) are antioxidant pigments that have been linked to a wide range of health benefits. For instance, a low intake of these compounds is believed to increase general mortality, eyesight issues, cognitive decline, several types of cancer, immune decay, and other health issues.


According to the triage theory, when the body doesn’t get enough of some nutrients, it will use what it can to ensure immediate survival, even at the cost of long-term health and longevity. That’s exactly why it’s crucial to always get the recommended daily amount of all the essential vitamins and minerals either from dietary sources or high-quality supplements.

Some other nutrients, like queuine and carotenoids, aren’t subjected to this kind of triage, but still play a huge role in ensuring longevity.

For optimal health, taking care of both groups of nutrients is extremely important.

Links to the study:


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