Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

    B Vitamins, Child Health and the Nutrition Problem

    Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke. It is characterized by elevated blood pressure, large waist circumference, and low HDL-cholesterol levels. As societies transform and develop, the incidence of metabolic syndrome increases. For example, 40% of women and 29% of men living in Nairobi have metabolic syndrome.

    People can still be malnourished, missing essential vitamins and minerals, even when they are overweight. Because metabolic syndrome is primarily a disorder of abdominal obesity, Yakub and colleagues evaluated the association between plasma homocysteine (Hcy) concentrations and 

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    Vitamin D Sufficiency for Child Development and Nutrition for All

    Vitamin D and calcium are required to build strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D is essential for normal absorption of calcium. Rickets, a failure in bone mineralization, was identified in the early 17th century and became endemic in the 20th century with industrialization. People were spending more time indoors and air pollution was reducing sun exposure. With vitamin D fortification and supplementation, rickets almost completely disappeared in the 21st century. However, rickets is re-emerging as fluid milk consumption decreases and people spend more time indoors and/or reducing skin exposure to sun.

    Schroth and colleagues recruited pregnant women from an economically disadvantaged urban setting. Serum 25(OH)D levels were measured.

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    Serum Carotenoids and Perspective on the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene (ATBC) Study

    Carotenoids are yellow, orange, and red pigments found in plants. Out of over 600 carotenoids found in nature, only six, i.e. β-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, α-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, are absorbed in quantity into the body. Only three (β-carotene, α-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin) can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Lutein and zeaxanthin are highly concentrated in the macular pigment of the retina, playing an important role in vision. Lutein supplementation increases visual function in adults.  Emerging science links lutein status with cognitive function.

    Because serum carotenoids have been inversely associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, Wang and colleagues assessed carotenoid intakes (2-24h recalls) and serum carotenoid concentrations  

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    Immigration, Unhealthy Dietary Habits, and Nutritional Status

    Moving from one place to another takes effort and is fraught with unknowns. Different cultures, languages, laws, and more. People do this because they are seeking opportunity, to improve their circumstances.

    Contrary to this notion, Eldeirawi and colleagues report a negative effect of immigration/acculturation on nutritional status using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994). The data is not recent but the results are insightful, based on 1,559 Mexican American (MA) children 4-16y of age. 

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    Headlines can Drive you Crazy! Today’s Rant is Vitamin E

    Headlines. They are seductive. They are memorable. Unfortunately, the details beneath the headline may be different.  In an insightful article (The media wails about money wasted on Tamiflu – but we were the ones who demanded it), Oliver Wright tracks headlines last week in Great Britain condemning their government for wasting taxes to stockpile the anti-flu drug Tamiflu. Then he cites 2005 headlines when the media criticized government for failing to protect its citizens, leaving 500,000 defenseless. Mr Wright makes the argument that media pressure led to the British government decision to buy and stockpile the drug Tamiflu in 2005. The case being made: policy decisions by controversial headlines are not synonymous with good governance.

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    Nutrient Status is More Important than Nutrient Intake

    For the most part, our bodies can interconvert macronutrients but vitamins and minerals must be consumed. Our bodies use carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol as energy sources. While some amino acids and fatty acids are essential (must be ingested), excess protein, carbohydrates, and fats are metabolized and stored in adipose tissue (as fat). Because of inadequate intakes of vitamins and minerals, people (and animals) can be overweight, even obese, and still malnourished.

    While low dietary intakes of vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, and vitamin C are correlated with mortality,  estimates of nutrient intake are crude estimates of nutrient status. 

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    Multivitamin-Mineral Supplements: Safe Insurance for Micronutrient Gaps

    The most commonly used dietary supplement is a multivitamin-mineral (MVMM) supplement. In 2011 survey,  the Council of Responsible Nutrition (CRN) reports the most commonly used dietary supplement is a multivitamin-mineral supplement (Dickinson et al, 2014). Consumers use MVMM supplements primarily:  1) for overall health and wellness and 2) to fill nutrient gaps.

    Multivitamin-mineral supplements are an important source of nutrients for many. While we may dream of eating garden-fresh fruit and vegetables with eggs, meat and fresh, unprocessed milk from a local farmer, i.e. foods that are not enriched or fortified, it is difficult to make (or afford) wise choices to meet essential micronutrient requirements

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    Iron Supplementation is Beneficial for Female Athletes

    Iron is an essential nutrient, especially for athletes. Iron’s most important role is to transport oxygen through the body via the blood protein hemoglobin. When iron intakes and absorption are inadequate to meet needs, the hemoglobin molecule that contains iron at its core cannot be produced. Symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and dizziness relate to the reduced ability of the body to transport oxygen. Iron deficiency in athletes reduces oxygen uptake and the output of muscles, impairing performance. Female athletes are at additional risk of iron deficiency. Can iron supplements help?

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