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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'August 2012'


    How to Maximize Bone Health with Nutrition

    According to the World Health Organization, 1 of 3 people over 65y will fall each year. Falling and consequent injuries, bone fractures, are a major public health problem. Hospital stays are much longer for falls than other injuries, ranging from 4 to 15 days. Falls also account for 40% of all injury deaths. Gannon and colleagues calculated the number of older people who fall annually and estimated an annual cost of €404 million in Ireland.What does this have to do with nutrition? Bones are living tissue. To build and maintain strong bones, people need an adequate supply of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and it also assists with the absorption of calcium from our intestine. 

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    What are the Alternatives to Fortifying Staple Foods?

    After 3 years of discussion and a public consultation, New Zealand authorities have rejected mandatory fortification of breads. It is well established that low folic acid intakes during the first trimester of pregnancy increase the risk of having a child born with a neural tube defect (NTD). In the New Zealand Herald, Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson is quoted, “In making my decision in favour of voluntary fortification, I read all the submissions and the clear message is that people want choice. Folic acid plays an important role in reducing NTDs in babies, but fortification of bread is only one part of a wider package of initiatives.” Choice is laudable. It is too late however to increase folic acid intakes after the first trimester of pregnancy

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    What is Vitamin E for?

    The benefits of vitamin E are many. Vitamin E (α-tocopherol) is the most abundant antioxidant in the body to stop the proliferation of damaging free radicals. It helps maintain cell membranes in every tissue, including brain, muscle, immune, sperm, and nerve cells. It is essential for brain function. Oxidative damage may contribute to pathogenic processes leading to mild cognitive impairment and Alzeimer’s disease. Mangialasche and colleagues measured and compared concentrations of plasma vitamin E metabolites in 187 healthy indviduals and >300 with cognitive impairments (average age 75-77 years). High plasma vitamin E levels were associated with reduced odds of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

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    About Breast Cancer and B Vitamins

    The words ‘breast cancer’ strike fear in the hearts of women and men. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 8 women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. With earlier detection and medical advances, there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the US. Because of these statistics, the article title reporting an association between one-carbon metabolism vitamins (vitamin B2, B6, and folate) and survival rate was intriguing. Unfortunately, the small sample size and sole dependence upon food frequency intake data constrain their findings. Lee and colleagues used a food frequency questionnaire to assess the dietary intakes of 980 women newly diagnosed with primary breast cancer in Korea. There was no association between vitamins B2, B6, and folate with the progression of breast cancer overall

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    Can Indoor Tanning Beds Increase your Vitamin D Levels?

    An investigative report by Bridget Huber published recently looked at a new advertising campaign by the International Smart Tan Network, an industry group for indoor tanning establishments. The industry group claims that "77 percent of Americans are considered vitamin D deficient" and "it is believed that vitamin D deficiency contributes to nearly 400,000 premature deaths and adds a $100 billion burden to our health care system." These statements are used to support the practice of indoor tanning. However the evidence is less convincing that tanning itself can reduce the costs of the healthcare system or improve health.

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    Is One Analysis Enough to Measure Vitamin K Status?

    Vitamin K is one of the less well-known vitamins. It is only needed in small quantities, in the range of 45 to 120 micrograms per day for adults. Although vitamin K can be obtained in the diet from green leafy vegetables in particular, some is produced by gut bacteria (see review by Hill, 1997). Vitamin K is needed to help blood coagulate, although other roles relating to bone and heart health are being researched. A key to furthering the science behind vitamin K is having reliable indicators of long term intakes. This was investigated by Presse and associates in Quebec, Canada in an article published in the Journal of Nutrition. The research group wanted to see whether a single measurement of circulating levels of vitamin K would be enough to reliably estimate vitamin K status.

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    High Dose Vitamin B12 Supplementation Cures Deficiency in Rural Mexican Women, But Highlights Need for Balanced Nutrition

    Vitamin B12 is the vitamin that was most recently isolated, its chemical structure determined and produced industrially. This is due to the complex structure and minute amounts needed. Recommended intakes for adults are generally in the range of 2 to 3 micrograms per day. Vitamin B12 is actually only produced by bacteria, such as those found in soil. It generally enters the human food chain when herbivores consume soil as part of their grass-based diet, and animal products are the most common source. This is an important reason why a third of rural Mexican women participating in a study published yesterday by Shahab-Ferdows and colleagues were found to be vitamin B12 deficient.

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    What is Asthma? How can Nutrition Help?

    Summer can be wonderful. The days are long and the morning sunshine invites one to get outdoors early. Maybe for a run or a walk. Except on the days when humidity is high, the UV index is high and air quality is low. On these days, one has to wonder about air quality and its impact on your lungs. Especially for those with asthma or chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). As written by Deborah Leader, RN, there is growing evidence that particular matter may be damaging to lungs. Cristina and colleagues investigated whether plasma antioxidant concentrations (vitamins C, E and A and

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    Does Fortifying a Snack Food Make It Seem More Nutritionally Sound? Your Chance to Comment on a New Research Proposal

    Most of us eat snacks every day. Around 96 percent of the US population consumes at least one snack per day, with two to three being a normal number of snacking occasions. Around one quarter to one third of energy for the average US person comes from snack foods. Snacks therefore rival other meals as a significant contributor to total consumption. Snacks provide an important source of other nutrients, too. Right now, the FDA is planning to conduct research into how nutrient content claims on fortified snack foods can influence consumer food choices (FDA-2012-N0871). The concern is that by allowing manufacturers to fortify snack choices like cookies, candies or carbonated beverages, the average person will think that these energy-dense snacks can replace nutrient-dense foods and beverages such as plain milk, fruit and vegetables, and foods containing whole grains.

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Part of the Strategy Against Colorectal Cancer?

    In the British Journal of Nutrition today, Shen and associates report on the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis on prospective cohort studies that investigate the association between colorectal cancer and omega-3 fatty acid intakes. Colon cancer (or, more correctly, colorectal cancer) has a high worldwide incidence, being the third most common cancer in men and second most common cancer in women (see some detailed information from the International Agency for Research on Cancer). There are over one million cases worldwide with a higher incidence in developed countries. The mortality rate has been declining over the past few decades in most countries due to improved screening and treatment procedures. Pre-clinical data shows potential for omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA to have an anticarcinogenic activity

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    A Century On, Look How Much We Have Learnt About the Vitamins, and How Far We Have to Go

    Today’s editorial by Stolz and Daniel in the British Journal of Nutrition brings to attention the article published one hundred years and fourteen days ago by Polish nutrition researcher Casimir Funk, and contrasts it with the situation today that is described in the original research article in the same journal by Troesch et al. The story of how the vitamins were discovered is fascinating and shows how science enabled us to discover the vitamins’ essential roles in human and animal health from the myriad of other compounds in the foods we eat. After the first Dutch researchers Eijkman and Grijns identified that a substance in the outer hull of rice reversed the symptoms of the disease beri-beri in the late 1800s, it took over 50 years before all the vitamins were isolated in a pure form, and another few decades before structures were determined and the vitamins could be produced industrially.

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    Nutrition, Disease, and Polymorphisms

    Today’s blog is an exclusive article written for Everything Nutrition in Nutraceuticals World. My paternal grandmother lived to be 101. At the time of her death, she was not taking any prescription medicines. The longevity of my maternal family however has been augmented by medical interventions – prescriptions, angioplasty and bypass surgery. Both sides of my family lived in the same geographic region, ate similar foods, and worked on the land. So what could account for the familial differences in disease patterns? The answer probably lies in our genetics. A recent article in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons reports that a specific polymorphism in the vitamin D receptor

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Stress and Cognitive Function

    Stress can be overwhelming. The NIH says it affects both body and mind. Everyone has stress sometime. It is valuable to know ways that nutrition can help cope with stress. Because of the cost of stress-related disorders among military personnel, Johnston and colleagues explored the relationship between blood eicospentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) ratios, known as the Omega-3 Index, and stress-related symptoms in active-duty military members. The Omega-3 Index, calculated from whole blood samples correlates well with red blood cell concentrations, was 3.5% (87% DHA, 13% EPA). A direct linear relationship was found among omega-3 fatty acid status, cognitive performance and executive functioning in this unique population with mild-to-moderate depression (65% and 35%, respectively). In general, the military members had low omega-3 status compared to that measured in US adults 39-45 years of age (4.5%).

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    Red Wine, Resveratrol and Looking to Tomorrow

    Although wine can be enjoyed year round, summer seems to be a time to discuss the benefits of red wines. Bhatt and colleagues hypothesized that resveratrol supplementation (250 mg/d) would improve glycemic control and reduce risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes. They recruited 62 individuals in India who were randomized to receive a resveratrol intervention or placebo. Three months of resveratrol supplementation significantly improved hemoglobin A1c concentrations (9.99 vs 9.65%), a measure of elevated blood glucose levels, reduced systolic blood pressure (140 vs 128 mm Hg), and total cholesterol concentrations (4.70 vs 4.33). Two years ago, TalkingNutrition covered a

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    Nutrition and Cardiovascular Risk: Taking Action Today or Waiting until…?

    There are many known risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Some, such as high blood cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, body weight can be controlled by diet and physical activity. Risk reduction is more than energy balance and weight management. Health is also affected by micronutrient status. Nutrition guidelines are meant to guide dietary choices and behavior to optimize vitamin, mineral, and omega-3 fatty acid intakes. Dietary supplements can be used to fill micronutrient gaps. Blood homocysteine levels are elevated by deficiencies in B vitamins. Supplementation with folic acid and B12 can reduce homocysteine levels in blood. Earnest and colleagues recruited 100 men and women (30-70y) with homocysteine concentrations > 8.0 μmol/L) and randomized them to 4 daily supplement regimens for 12 weeks: 1) multivitamin (MV), 2) Omega-3, 3) MV & Omega-3, or 4) Placebo.

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    Vitamin D, Polymorphism & Cancer Risk

    Cancer is a devastating disease. The American Cancer Society estimates 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 63,300 in situ cases will be diagnosed among women this year. A risk factoris anything that affects the chance of getting cancer. Some, like age, genetics and race, cannot be changed. Others may also be beyond personal control, e.g. environmental factors. It is primarily personal risk factors which can modified - smoking, alcohol consumption and diet. It is based on this principle that the FDA approves nutrient-disease health claims with significant scientific agreement and qualifications. A study published by Dalessandri and colleagues reports that the 40% higher prevalence of breast cancer in the San Francisco Bay area (vs national average) may be explained by

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    Beta-Carotene, Vitamin A Deficiency and Nutrition Improvement

    Vitamin A is essential for eye health and immune function. Although vitamin A is found in milk, eggs and liver as retinol, the amount of vitamin A obtained from provitamin A carotenoid forms found in green leafy vegetables, red and orange fruit, and red palm oil varies widely. Unfortunately, vitamin A intakes can be inadequate when people consume most of their vitamin A from fruits and vegetables. It is estimated that >600,000 children < 5y of age die annually from Vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children.

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    What’s the Deal with Taking a Dietary Supplement?

    Recent headlines raise questions about using dietary supplements. What should I do? Dietary supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet. People should eat a balanced diet but many don’t. Without choosing enriched or fortified foods and beverages or dietary supplements, many people fail to achieve recommended micronutrient intakes. Research shows that supplement users have better nutrient intakes than non-supplement users. Choosing to use dietary supplements is part of a healthy lifestyle. Users are more likely to exercise, eat a more nutritious diet, not smoke, and to exercise regularly. In short, they tend to avoid risky behaviors. However, even when people do make good choices, there are still circumstances when government agencies and professional associations recommend dietary supplementation:

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    Vitamin D Opportunities among Postmenopausal Women

    Yesterday, TalkingNutrition covered research reporting that vitamin D levels were low in young women being recruited to basic combat training. Serum 25(OH)D levels were lower in non-white (41-50 nmol/L) than white (70-77 nmol/L) volunteers at all times. Despite eating cafeteria foods meeting military dietary reference intakes, vitamin D intakes were below recommendations during training and serum 25(OH)D levels fell during the study. Zhao and colleagues studied vitamin D response in 1,179 non-Hispanic white postmenopausal women enrolled in a 4 year calcium and vitamin D (1,100 IU daily) clinical trial. Three factors – increase in vitamin D intake, baseline serum 25(OH)D concentration, and season when baseline blood was collected

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    No, D rill Sergeant! Even Following Dietary Guidelines, Military Women Can’t Get Enough Vitamin D

    When we intensify our exercise routine, we are more prone to stress fractures. New military recruits are at risk of fractures that can affect their performance in the army because they participate in a program featuring physical training. Today, Lutz and co-workers report on vitamin D intakes, circulating levels, and bone biomarkers in women attending the Basic Combat Training (BCT) in For Jackson, South Carolina. Stress fractures are caused by repetitive use of force on bone, such as during long distance events or repetitive exercise. It is a significant problem in the military and also in the civilian population. Lappe et al. calculate the costs of stress fractures for the US military to be around US$ 26 million per year. Vitamin D is well known as being a bone health nutrient because it assists in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, two essential bone minerals, and for normal muscle function.

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, DHA and EPA: What are You Made of?

    The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ applies to fish as well as humans. In an intriguing invited commentary, Ruzzin and Jacobs Jr speculate that human interventions in the lives of fish have reduced the nutritional value of fish for humans. They propose that the beneficial effect of consuming fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), relative to omega-6 fatty acids is counterbalanced by environmental pollutants in the fish. In addition, they suggest EPA:DHA ratios may be changing as more fish are being farmed. Of course, the composition of any fish, farmed or not, will reflect their diet. As humans influence oceans by changing the environment, the food chain, and the resident species, it is likely that the EPA:DHA content of fish harvested from the seas may be different.

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    Hey Popeye, Golden Rice Is a Better Vitamin A Source Than Spinach!

    Popeye the Sailor Man would reach for a can of spinach whenever he needed to boost his strength. While the dramatic effects on muscle size experienced by Popeye after consuming his favorite vegetable are only found in the cartoon world, spinach and other green leafy vegetables provide lots of nutritional goodies. Minerals like calcium and iron, vitamin C, phytonutrients, and in particular pro-vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene and other carotenoids are some of the nutrients found in green leafy vegetables. Increasing consumption of these vegetables is seen as part of the solution to preventing vitamin A deficiency, another part is Golden Rice ( Rice is a staple food in many parts of the world but does not provide any beta-carotene.

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