Which systems of the body are affected by anti-nutrient intake ?

All of the systems of the body are inter-related. It is helpful not only to identify which systems of the body can be affected by antinutrient intake, but also to be able to state how and why (in each case).

In general, the systems of the body affected by anti-nutrients are:

  1. The digestive system - because this is where nutrients should be absorbed into the body - hence nutrients ingested but not fully absorbed are affected by disruption to the normal functioning of the digestive system.
  2. The system(s) of the body that particularly require and depend on whichever nutrients are incompletely absorbed, metabolized, or utilized as a result of the presence of particular antinutrients in the body.

For example, significant consumption of alcohol increases the body's requirement for vitamin A and consumption of large amounts of alcohol can also reduce the amount of vitamin A that the body is able to store - among other antinutrient effects. Therefore unless people who consume at least significant amounts of alcohol also sufficiently increase their intake of vitamin A (among other considerations), the antinutrient effects of their intake of alcohol will not only affect their digestive system but will also affect all the systems of the body that rely on adequate supply of vitamin A, such as the visual system (re. eyesight), integumentary system (skin), immune system and reproductive system (re. fertility).

The question "which systems of the body are affected by intake of anti-nutrients?" can be applied, not just to individual antinutrients, but also to each of the nutrients that each antinutrient is known to affect.

A process for answering such questions is as follows:

Example Question :

Which systems of the body are affected by the antinutrient effects of cigarette smoking?

There are many chemicals in cigarettes but this question conveniently groups them all together.

The antinutrient effects of cigarettes are included in some first-level courses e.g. diet and nutrition. Briefly, cigarette smoking increases the body's requirement for the following, whose main functions are:

  • Vitamin C


healthy skin, fights infections, eyesight/vision, antioxidant, fertility (re. sperm health)


healthy skin, vision, antioxidant. helps immune system, antioxidant, helps convert vitamin B6 into usable form


energy levels (via its role helping to convert food into energy),immune system / fighting infections, helps balance female hormones, helps balance emotions via production of chemicals that affect sleep cycle, used to help re. long-term tiredness and depression


cell division and production of red blood cells, healthy skin and hair, healthy nervous system, emotional wellbeing e.g. to alleviate anxiety and depression.

The anti-nutrient effects of cigarette smoking affect the digestive system (via which these among other nutrients would normally be efficiently released from food and absorbed into the body). Also, if the person's diet isn't adjusted to allow for the antinutrient effects of cigarette smoking i.e. by extra intake of the above mentioned nutrients either in food or via supplements, the following body systems could be adversely affected by deficiency of these vitamins:

  • integumentary system (skin)
  • visual system (re. eyesight)
  • immune system
  • reproductive system (re. fertility)
  • vascular system (e.g. re. production of red blood cells that requires vitamin B12)
  • nervous system
  • digestive system (can be mentioned again re. some of the actions of the above nutrients).

This list includes most of the systems of the body.

Given that vitamin B12 is needed for cell division (which occurs in all the body systems), one could even justify an answer stating that the antinutrient effects of cigarette smoking affect all of the systems of the body - for that reason. The above makes clear how and why the body systems mentioned could be affected.

If the question had concerned a specific drug it might be possible to look it up in a table such as the table in the paper cited below. "Drugs as antinutrients" by M.Moss lists many drugs, some of which are associated with "possible deficiency or interference" of only one nutrient, in most cases a vitamin or mineral.

Further information:

The following paper lists drugs that may reduce the absorption or activity of nutrients or normal body constituents:

"Drugs as anti-nutrients (Review Paper)" by Margaret Moss, published in Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, May 2007; 16(2): pp 149-166. (c) 2007 Informa UK Ltd.,

Last time we checked the above mentioned thoroughly referenced work was available for free download at: http://bit.ly/yJ8ePA.

See also vitamins, minerals, amino acids, common anti-nutrients & dietary needs at different life stages.

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