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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'May 2011'


    European Health Claims for DHA and Children’s Health and Development Put into Law

    The omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, docosohexaenoic acid (DHA) is receiving attention as an important brain and eye health nutrient. On May 26, the European Union put into law three article 14 health claims relating to the role of DHA in pre-natal and infant development

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    Low levels of vitamin D and adiposity: cause or effect?

    Two research papers published online today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed two parts of the relationship between body weight and vitamin D levels. An article by Chacko and associates provided results of cross-sectional data from the Women’s Health Initiative regarding the relationship between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and cardiometabolic risk factors. A second article by Mason and coworkers reported on a randomized controlled trial that determined the effects of calorie restriction, with and without exercise, on circulating vitamin D concentrations in around 400 post-menopausal women.

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    Plan for Improved Global Maternal and Child Nutrition drafted

    The 64th World Health Assembly (WHA) of the United Nations, which concluded today in Geneva, Switzerland, spent over one week working on a broad agenda covering health topics of global significance. These focus areas included preparedness for pandemics, reforms to the World Health Organization, the challenges presented by chronic, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, strengthening health systems, further support to the Millennium Development Goals, supporting child and maternal nutrition, and control of infectious diseases including malaria, polio and guinea worm. Malnutrition, particularly the critical time through pregnancy to two years of age, can permanently affect infant and child survival and development.

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    Omega-3 DHA in Pregnant Women, and Neurological Outcomes in Their Pre-School Aged Offspring

    Research supporting the importance of the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) DHA for normal brain development in children is growing. Recently, a research group lead by Escolano-Margarit reported on the results of a long-term study investigating DHA supplementation and cognition. Pregnant women were recruited into the study at 20 weeks gestation, to coincide with the time when the fetal brain most rapidly accumulates DHA, as reviewed by Carlson. The women were given supplements to take daily that contained 500 mg DHA and 150 mg EPA, a related omega-3 PUFA, as part of a placebo-controlled study that also included a metabolically active form of folate up until their delivery. The researchers measured the DHA content of cord and maternal blood at birth, and later conducted neurological evaluations of the children at 4 and 5.5 years of age.

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    How Well Does Folate Fortification and Supplementation Improve Folate Status?

    Women of child-bearing age should take care that their folate intake is adequate to prevent infant neural tube disorders (NTDs). Many countries now fortify staple products with folate, or recommend folate supplements to women planning a pregnancy, and rates of NTDs have fallen. The researchers Houghton and colleagues recently investigated the effects of supplementation on raising functional folate status in young women. Functional folate status is measured through red blood cell (RBC) folate, which is also a measure of long-term body stores. A recent CDC report presents results that show that folate deficiency, as defined by low RBC folate, decreased substantially in the USA after folate fortification was introduced in 1998.

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    Omega-3 and B-Vitamins Enhance Cognitive Function in Older French Adults

    There is considerable interest in society around how to maintain memory and cognitive ability during aging. As nutrition is thought to play a role in brain health, a recent study, by Andreeva and colleagues, looked at an intervention with long chain omega-3 fatty acids and B-vitamins folate, B6 and B12. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are touted as helping to maintain brain health based on epidemiological research, and the fact that the brain is made up of these fatty acids from the diet. Current research into brain health and PUFAs is summarized by Cunnane and colleagues. The three B-vitamins used are linked to brain health because together, they reduce the high blood concentrations of homocysteine that are linked to poor vascular health, which can influence the brain, as reviewed by Budge and associates.

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    Beta-carotene & Vitamin A Supplementation to Prevent Night Blindness

    Achieving maternal adequacy in vitamin A is an important public health goal to reduce night blindness even though it may not reduce maternal and infant risk of death. Vitamin A deficiency is widespread in many societies and it is associated with night blindness and infectious morbidity. Although beta-carotene or vitamin A supplementation did not appear to affect risk of maternal or infant mortality, weekly supplementation or food fortification is still an important public health goal according to author Dr Keith West.

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    Epidemiological Research Suggests Vitamin D Helps Reduce Risk of Diabetes

    The association between diabetes and low vitamin D levels has been known for some time, and this was investigated in a large epidemiological study reported on recently by Brock and associates. Vitamin D has been of interest to diabetes researchers since the important discovery by Norman and colleagues that vitamin D deficiency inhibits the secretion of insulin, the lack of which causes diabetes. A comprehensive review by Mathieu and coworkers provides an overview of current research. In the recent study, the researchers compared circulating levels of the active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, and the circulating form 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in 2465 men. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was 10% in this otherwise healthy sample of older adults located throughout the USA. Sub-optimal vitamin D status, below 50nmol/L, was found in 29% of subjects. There was a strong seasonal variation in circulating levels of vitamin D, showing a peak

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    More News on Prostate Cancer Risk

    A new study reported at the American Urological Association in Washington reports that prostate cancer was 3 times more likely to spread in obese men (BMI > 30) than their normal weight counterparts. This finding raises more doubts about a recent report in men of normal weight and increased physical activity suggesting that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid may increase risk of prostate cancer. It is very difficult to ascertain nutrient-disease relationships in epidemiological studies.

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    Meet, Educate & Collaborate at NIA West Forum

    The Nutrition Industry Association West (NIA-West) continues its second day of meeting at the La Quinta Resort and Club in the Coachella Valley. Today, three speakers will give updates on the latest research results. Zhaoping Li, MD PhD, Professor of Medicine at UCLA School of Medicine will update the audience on new findings on botanicals. Michael McBurney, PhD Head of Scientific Affairs, DSM Nutritional Products, will discuss new vitamin D DRIs and the superior efficacy of D3 vs D2

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    DHA & Prostate Cancer Risk: Prospective vs Intervention Trials

    Prostate cancer is the most commonly occurring male-only cancer and its incidence is affected by diet. Brasky and associates conducted a case-control study using men diagnosed with prostate cancer and matched controls within a larger randomized controlled trial. The researchers analyzed blood samples of omega-3, omega-6 and trans fatty acids taken from men in the trial, which reflect dietary intakes. This study needs to be kept in context because it analyzed dietary lipids in men who had healthier body weights (20-29% had BMI < 25 vs <65% in population), were more physically active (>40% were moderately active vs <25% in population), and probably eating more nutritious diets than most.

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    Beautiful Skin from Green Tea Extract

    Recenly, Heinrich and coworkers investigated the effects of green tea polyphenols on skin parameters such as photoprotection, skin structure and blood flow. Green tea naturally contains an array of bio-active compounds, with much research focused on the phenols such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). In particular, many of these compounds are strong antioxidants, and can affect gene expression. Green tea polyphenols consumed from the diet or supplements are transported to the skin, where they can act as antioxidants and exert other beneficial effects. For example, a mechanistic study showed that EGCG could reduce UV damage to the skin, which is important in preventing skin damage.

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    Life and Health: It is about Keeping Balance

    Too often the headlines promise that a single change – diet, exercise, drugs – will magically alter the rest of your life. Actually, we are much too complicated for that to be true. Our bodies are too sophisticated and our lives are too hectic. So, a new study at the European Calcified Tissue Society in Athens, Greece affirms the benefits of a more balanced approach, ie taking both calcium and vitamin D supplements together. Not only do calcium and vitamin D help maintain strong bones together, but Rjenmark and colleagues found that vitamin D supplementation helped attenuate the cardiovascular risks of calcium supplementation. Balance also comes to mind when reading a corrected proof in the European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism authored by Alexander Dzien and colleagues which is not yet freely available ( Between January 2005 and September 2009, 2548 people attending

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    Men! Remember your Vitamin D

    Two new studies are particularly relevant for men, and the women in their lives. Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is important. Giovannucci and colleagues measured serum 25(OH)D levels and vitamin D receptor (VDR) expression in 841 men with prostate cancer from the Physicians’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. They report that vitamin D metabolic pathways play a role in the lethality of prostate cancer. It appears men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer, or have a better outcome if diagnosed with prostate cancer, by improving their vitamin D status.

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    Ethnic Differences in Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Childhood Obesity

    New research reports that the majority of children in the US are vitamin D deficient (< 20ng/mL; 50 nmol/L). In black children, 73% were vitamin D deficient. Plasma 25(OH)D levels were inversely associated with BMI and body fat content whereas it was positively associated with HDL cholesterol levels. Moreover, vitamin D deficiency was associated with higher visceral adiposity in whites and greater subcutaneous adiposity in blacks. We can make vitamin D when exposed to sunshine but most people need dietary sources to prevent vitamin D deficiency. But as the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements writes, it can be difficult obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D from foods.

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    Low Carotenoid Intakes Found in Europeans

    Of the more than 700 carotenoids found in nature, 6 represent 95% of total blood carotenoids - beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-crypoxanthin, and alpha-carotene. Dr Carlson and associates evaluated plasma carotenoid concentrations with food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) of subjects with 7 day FFQ and weighed food records. They found one could relatively rank individuals by fruit and vegetable intakes using biomarkers of nutrient intake. Unfortunately, people only consumed about 500grams of fruits, vegetables and juice daily and this was still more than reported by Norwegians in the latest dietary survey in 1997! Clearly, this population is not eating recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

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    Functional riboflavin deficiency is improved by supplementation

    A recent publication by Powers and associates provides the results from a study on riboflavin status in women in the UK. Riboflavin is a water-soluble B vitamin that is an essential co-factor needed for energy production in body cells. It is also needed for the production of red blood cells, and for the transport of iron, and thus impacts iron status. Currently, overt riboflavin deficiency is rare in developed countries because it is found in many foodstuffs, and wheat flour is fortified with riboflavin. Sub-clinical riboflavin deficiency however may be widespread. A laboratory test, the erythrocyte glutathione reductase activation coefficient, can be used to uncover suboptimal riboflavin status.

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    Can They Help with Autism Symptoms?

    Children with autism disorders typically show impaired social interaction and communication skills. There is no clear cure for autism and the causes are multi-factorial, thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Even so, there are some symptoms that can be treated and researchers are trying to investigate pharmacological and behavioral therapies that may help these children lead a relatively normal life.

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    Vitamin D and Respiratory Infections

    A summary of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases workshop entitled “Impact of Micronutrients on Respiratory Infections” was published by Christopher Taylor and Carlos Camargo Jr in Nutrition Reviews. While the observational studies are promising, they emphasized the need for randomized clinical trials to drive health policy. The article notes the growing call by scientists to define serum 25(OH)D levels of <30 ng/mL as the measure of insufficiency. Currently, serum 25(OH)D levels below 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L) indicate ‘vitamin D deficiency’ according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and “vitamin D insufficiency’ by the Institute of Medicine.

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