A publication released yesterday, written by Aronson and associates and published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, reports on a clinical study that supplemented men undergoing prostate cancer surgery with high levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The omega-3 PUFAs have a number of important roles in the body, and one of these is the regulation of inflammation.
Archive for 'October 2011'
A publication today in Neurology by Stein, Lui, Gray and coworkers reports the results of a randomized controlled trial that looked at the effects of supplying vitamin D to a group of adults with multiple sclerosis (MS). Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. It is characterized by episodes of debilitating neurological symptoms such as loss of balance, muscle spasms, vision loss, and slurred speech. It is normally considered a chronic condition, as episodes recur over decades. A review by Rosati places the prevalence between a few cases to around 150 cases per 100,000, with prevalence increasing as one moves away from the equator. This North-South gradient has suggested that vitamin D deficiency through lack of sunlight as a possible cause of MS.
Today Food Day is being celebrated across the USA. This comes one week after World Food Day, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which focused on how stabilizing food prices is a tool to improve the food security of the most needy people in the world. Food Day has similar aims: promoting safe and healthy food, supporting sustainability, alleviating hunger, and supporting labor conditions for agricultural workers. In the US, food insecurity rates are a cause for concern, with 50 million food-insecure people, of which 17 million are children. Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as reducing quality, variety or desirability of the diet, or reducing amount of food eaten, due to difficulties obtaining food, in the past year.
Nutrition scientists, public health nutritionists, health professionals discuss personalizing nutrition – that is giving advice specific to an individual. With something like body weight (adiposity), it is easy. 1. Step on a scale. 2. Read the number. 3. Choose to ignore the number or take action to change it. 4. Decision personalized. Other health issues aren’t so easy. For measurements like blood pressure or blood glucose, people can monitor their status with a relatively minor investment in equipment. But it is much more difficult to get personal data for others such as serum cholesterol or micronutrient status. To monitor one’s health requires medical appointments, trips to laboratories, and the potential for frustrating interactions with insurance companies. Not simple or convenient. So what is personal nutrition?
Today is World Osteoporosis Day, brought to us by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). The facts are: 1. One in 3 women and one in 5 men will suffer a fracture caused by weak bones. 2. Fractures decrease quality of life because of pain and debilitation. 3. 33% of older adults who suffer a hip fracture become physically impaired and lose their ability to live independently one year after the fracture. 4. Take steps now. Embrace an active lifestyle, eat calcium-rich foods, and be certain to get enough vitamin D. November 2010, the Institute of Medicine increased their vitamin D recommendations (RDA) to 600 IU (15 ug) daily for everyone over 1 year of age and 800 IU (20 ug) daily for those over 70 years. Because of the risk of frailty and falls, the IOF recommends 800-1,000 IU daily for older adults
Vitamin A supplementation prevents death and illness in children 6 mo to 5 years of age. An editorial in JAMA published today states that further randomized-controlled trials (RCT) in children would not be ethical given the well-established benefits of supplementation – a 24% reduction in child mortality. Pretty strong stance on use of dietary supplements. This statement is derived from a meta-analysis of 43 vitamin A supplementation trials including more than 215,000 children published in BMJ. Mayo-Wilson and colleagues demonstrate the importance of vitamin A for growth and development – the essentiality of micronutrients for health. When dietary intakes are suboptimal, supplementation is an important means to acquire essential vitamins and minerals. In contrast, there have been numerous headlines this past week saying supplements are wasteful, if not dangerous to your health. What?
The Hippocratic Oath vows to prescribe regimens for the good of the patient and to never harm anyone. A single study in women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer using self-reported dietary records found that dietary supplement use did not reduce total mortality. Another study claimed dietary supplements increased mortality in older women and in an editorial, Rita Redberg claimed “consumers are getting little value for this expenditure.” This is incorrect. Many people would benefit by changing their food choices and/or supplementing their diet to get recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals.
NPR Morning Edition broadcast a piece by Richard Knox entitled “Americans Urged to Rethink Dietary Supplement Use”. The teaser is “There’s been an explosion in the number of Americans who take vitamins and other dietary supplements. But do they do any good? And might they actually be doing harm? Two new studies raise serious questions.” Let’s put some perspective to recent events. Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling was the first to promote pharmacologic doses of nutrients (vitamin C) to mitigate disease risk, in common parlance to ‘prevent colds”. The validity of pharmacologic doses of nutrients in preventing prostate cancer and other non-communicable diseases remains controversial. This is not the topic of today's blog.
October 16 is World Food Day. DSM celebrated World Food Day and its partnership with General Mills and Cargill in Partners in Food Solutions at its Parsippany headquarters today. DSM employees were encouraged to volunteer their knowledge and expertise to help achieve food security. Jeff Dykstra, Founder of Partners in Food Solutions, opened the celebration by sharing the enrichment he and other volunteers have gained by helping small-to-medium size food production businesses in Africa. Not only is volunteerism personally fulfilling, but it the reality is that strengthening local food processing has a positive ‘ripple’ effect in the community. By helping entrepreneurial, civic-minded food companies, we are investing in the growth and future health of tomorrow’s leaders.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) published a meta-analysis of 26 trials with almost 48,000 participants, the majority of whom were elderly and female. Vitamin D use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of suffering at least one fall. The effect was more prominent in women who were vitamin D deficient at baseline. The same issue of JCEM has a study by Kim and colleagues who measured serum 25(OH)D levels in 3,169 Korean men and women over 50y of age. Vitamin D levels were significantly lower in subjects with sarcopenia, regardless of body mass index. Sarcopenia is the medical term for loss of muscle.
Wednesday, referred to as hump day, is the middle of a tough work week, before the slide down home to Friday and World Food Day. Today, it seems like the entire world wants to dissociate nutrition from the concept of health. Despite the tenuous links (associations) which can be drawn from epidemiological studies, or questions about the relevance of applying randomized controlled trials to study nutrients in select populations, a third study reports significant links between taking vitamins and breast cancer. Hold on a minute! Should women using vitamin supplements stop? NO! This study cannot be extrapolated to all women. Greenlee and associates studied the effect of vitamin supplementation in nearly 2,300 women who already HAD early-stage breast cancer, which had been diagnosed 2 years earlier (on average)!
Rodney Dangerfield was famous for saying “I get no respect, I tell ya.” If human, vitamin E would commiserate with Rodney. However, vitamin E isn’t human, it an essential nutrient required by humans. Today’s JAMA publication by Klein and associates will be translated into headlines that vitamin E supplements aren’t necessary, and may even be unhealthy. The report is an updated analysis of the SELECT study, the first study to directly examine if selenium and/or vitamin E supplementation may prevent prostate cancer. The results were negative for the dietary supplement industry. Do they also denigrate nutrition science and the importance of vitamin E?
Nutrients are not drugs. Nutrients do not treat, prevent or mitigate disease. Nutrients are essential to live, but they cannot prevent death. Without nutrition, people starve to death. With nutrition, we hope to live long and healthy lives. Research consistently shows that people who use dietary supplements typically exercise more regularly, smoke less, drink alcohol in moderation, and generally have healthier body weights and lifestyles. In other words, they are trying harder to follow recommended healthy behaviors.
Falling hurts. Falls cause skinned knees and lead to broken bones. Nobody wants to wear a cast. And these facts bring the topic back to nutrition. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has just reviewed the science in an Article 14 submission related to vitamin D and risk of falling. The EFSA panel concluded that a cause and effect relationship existed between the intake of vitamin D and risk of falling. The EFSA panel agreed that “Vitamin D may reduce the risk of falling. Falling is a risk for bone fractures”. In order to obtain the claimed effect, the EFSA panel recommended 800 IU vitamin D daily for men and women 60 years and older. NutraIngredients.com covered the story on October 4.
The adage is “you are what you eat”, meaning if you eat well, you will be well. If you eat an unhealthy diet, you will be unhealthy. Turns out that food choice is quite habitual. The foods we eat don’t change much over time. This doesn’t bode well for nutrition education programs or our health tomorrow, next year, and in the decades to come. Boston researchers asked the question, “how much do people change their diet over time?” by studying the stability of nutrient intakes over 8 years of participants in the Framingham Nutrition Studies. Kimokoti and others published their findings online today in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Lives last longer than political administrations. But beginnings are important to both. New administrations are measured by their accomplishments during the first 100 days. A child’s future can be reflected during its first 1,000 days of life, from pregnancy to 2yrs. A paper published online Oct 3 in Archives of Pediatrics by Carmichael and associates found healthier dietary patterns during pregnancy reduced the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) and clefts. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins, required to make DNA and RNA. Inadequate intakes of folic acid are associated with NTDs. Folate deficiencies are associated with poorer neurocognitive development and poorer neurocognitive function.
The health benefits of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) range from supporting cardiovascular health, to cognitive functions and immunity. Recently, Meyer and Kolanu report on the typical omega-3 PUFA intakes of Australian children in a representative survey. Derivatives of omega-3 PUFAs are needed in every cell of the body. There are three main forms of omega-3 PUFA, the short-chain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and the long-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA can be converted to EPA, which in turn can be converted to DHA, however it is estimated that less than 1% of ALA is converted to DHA. This is important because DHA is often considered to be the most beneficial omega-3 PUFA.