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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'January 2013'


    Vitamin D Increases Calcium Absorption to Maintain Bone While Dieting

    Making lifestyle changes to achieve a healthy weight is generally positive for health. Aside from reducing risk of heart disease and cancer, weight loss can also improve quality of life by improving mobility and improving sleep. One disadvantage of weight loss is that it tends to result in a decrease in bone mineral density, a considerable concern for older adults. This reduction in bone mineral has a few potential causes. Calorie restriction tends to result in a decrease in calcium absorption, perhaps because levels of cortisone increase when dieting. The reduction in body fat corresponds to a decrease in circulating concentrations of estradiol (the most biologically significant estrogen in women during the reproductive years), which reduces the bone-protective effects of this hormone, which is more pronounced in post-menopausal women. Also, extra weight creates more stress on bone, resulting in net increases in bone mineral density.

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    Feeding the World and Turning up the Volume on Essential Nutrition

    A high-level audience is meeting in Amsterdam today to accelerate global collaboration to address food security and address the nutritional double burden of obesity and malnutrition. The conference, Feeding the World, has an impressive slate of speakers. As reported from the World Economic Forum in Davos by Jorn Madslien of BBC News , obesity is not limited to the wealthy. “By contrast, both starvation and obesity are closely linked with poverty, and as such they are both symptoms of malnutrition, Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, tells BBC News. "As countries develop, they often get a double problem," she says.” The need for action is independently highlighted in a review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition today.

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    Stronger Cooperation to Improve Nutrition and Food Security

    Today, representatives from DSM and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation met with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Berlin to fight hunger. Stephan Tanda, Member of the Managing Board of Royal DSM, addressed the responsibilities of all to address hidden hunger globally. He built upon his comments at the World Economic Forum and spoke of the need for public-private partnerships , such as those DSM has with the Global Alliance for Nutrition, Partners in Food Solutions, the Micronutrient Initiative, and others in improving the nutritional status of more than 12 million children and families.

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    Personalizing Nutrition: Vitamin E, Genetics, Head and Heart Health

    Personalized nutrition has been a buzzword for more than a decade. First, the answer was thought to lie in the Human Genome Project which was completed in 2003. Then, scientists became interested in the proteins being derived from genetic information before the focus shifted to metabolomics. We still don’t live in a world where nutrition is truly personalized. But that time is getting closer. Every week new studies are published suggesting the importance of genes in partially defining nutrient requirements. Using venous blood from 333 fasting individuals 60y and older, Shahar and colleagues measured vitamins A and E status and apolipoprotein E (APOE) polymorphisms. In persons with mild cognitive impairment, they report an association between low vitamin E levels and the APOEε4 genotype. This is not the first study to associate low vitamin E status with long-term risk of dementia.

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    Monitoring the Health Impact of Food Fortification: The Folate Story

    Beginning in the 1990’s, many countries established mandatory folate fortification programs to reduce the incidence of children being born with neural tube defects (NTDs). Although low folate status increases colorectal cancer risk, there is some suggestion that overabundant folate supplementation may promote colorectal carcinogenesis. In their meta-analysis, Vollset and colleagues examined data from randomized controlled studies (RCT) comparing folic acid versus placebo for at least 1 year with > 500 participants and data on cancer incidence. They identified 13 RCTs with 49,621 participants. The main outcome examined was incident cancer, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. Folic acid supplementation in daily doses ranging from 0.5 to 5mg,

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    Could Inadequate Carotenoid and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intakes Partially Explain Autism Rates?

    The incidence of autism is increasing. According to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM), in 2000 ~1 child out of every 150 children was diagnosed with autism-related disorders in 2000. Eight years later, it has increased to 1 child in 88. Boys are 5 times more likely to have the disorder than girls. Today, the NIH reported that maternal inflammation during pregnancy may be related to an increased risk of autism. Researchers found that the risk of a child having autism was 43% higher in mothers with elevated C-reactive protein (CRP)levels during pregnancy. Why could this be happening? CRP levels rise in response to infections, inflammation and oxidative stress. CRP levels also reflect dietary antioxidant intake. Hozawa and colleagues measured serum carotenoid concentrations in young adults (18-30y) from 4 US cities.

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    Why Is Widespread Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Developing Countries Being Ignored?

    Deficiency in vitamin B12 is a subject that does not seem to have attracted attention to the same extent as other “celebrity” micronutrients like iron, vitamin D and vitamin A. This is a shame, because report after report show that marginal or deficient vitamin B12 status is a considerable problem in many regions of the world. Today, a research group located in India with lead author Samuel report in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism on the incidence of vitamin B12 deficiency in pregnant women. The recent report in Indian women in the first trimester of pregnancy found that 51% had plasma vitamin B12 levels below the cutoff for deficiency.

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    Eating, Nutrient Adequacy, Sitting and Physical Activity

    The stimulus for most TalkingNutrition blogs is a research paper which has just been released electronically. However, today’s posting is a reflection on the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) annual conference session “Move It! Looking at the Health Consequences of Physical Activity” tweeted by @Regan_Bailey_. Dr Steve Blair, University of South Carolina, made a compelling case that fitness is important. He declared studies that associated obesity with non-communicable disease risk without any assessment of physical activity or fitness were junk science. Using data by Duck-chul and colleagues on 14,345 men, he reported that it is changes in fitness, not body mass index (BMI), which reduce the risk of all-cause and CVD mortality. In fact, every 1 MET improvement in fitness correlates with 15% and 19% reductions

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    Fortification 101: Mexican Study with Vitamin A in Preschoolers Ticks All the Boxes

    Food fortification is an important strategy that is used to prevent micronutrient deficiencies at the population level. It is highly effective at improving the nutritional status for a range of risk nutrients such as vitamins A, D, thiamin, riboflavin and folate, and minerals iodine and iron. Fortification programs need to be carefully designed to be effective in raising the nutrient status of the population. An article by Lopez-Teros and colleagues published in the Journal of Nutrition reports on a vitamin A fortification efficacy study in preschoolers in Mexico. To read into the details of food fortification with vitamin A, Dary and Mora provide an overview of key concepts. These are eight important factors to ensure that the fortification program is likely to be successful. How well did the recent study perform?

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    Omega-3s: Potency, Freshness and Quality Affect DHA and EPA Uptake

    TalkingNutrition typically reports research results from human studies. Today is different. A newly published paper in the Journal of Nutrition emphasizes the importance of freshness and quality when choosing omega-3 fatty acid food and supplement sources. Maestre and colleagues used in vitro systems to examine: 1) the effect of oxidation on intestinal cell (CACO-2) uptake and metabolism of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA; and 2) the effect of polyphenol antioxidants to prevent PUFA oxidation within the lumen of the gut. Two key observations were made.

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    Stronger Science Shows Coenzyme Q10 Can Help in Heart Failure

    For a few decades, research into coenzyme Q10 and cardiovascular disease has been ongoing at a slow but steady rate. A recent editorial by Stocker and Macdonald in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (published online January 16) brings into context some of the issues that researchers have met researching coenzyme Q10, especially in light of the meta-analysis published online late last year. Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like co-factor that is used in the mitochondria of cells for energy production. The coenzyme is therefore found in the organs that are energetically most active, particularly in the heart, kidney, liver, muscle and brain. Although it can be produced by the body, lower levels have been found in people with various conditions, including heart failure patients

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    Transitioning Children onto Foods Between 9 to 18 Months of Age

    The foods eaten by children after nursing are critically important for their development. Bottom line, children need essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to grow in addition to the calories they consume as fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Lioret and colleagues measured nutrient intakes of 177 Australian children at 9 and 18 months of age using three 24h recalls. They found children were already being fed energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods at 9 months. Between 9 to 18 months, their intake of vegetables fell and

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    Can Vitamin B12 Injections Help Give You Energy or Help You to Lose Weight?

    Every so often, we receive reports about vitamin B12 injections and their health benefits. Some sources report an increase in energy, metabolism boost and possible weight loss. In fact, a year or so ago, reports circulated about celebrities and their vitamin B12 injections. But, can vitamin B12 help people who are not deficient? How common is deficiency? And are injections a valid way to improve vitamin B12 status? Today, we take a closer look at vitamin B12 and its effects on health.

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    Yes, Vitamin D Deficiency Is Also Found in Sunny Countries

    As winter in Europe and North America is in full swing for TalkingNutrition, it is easy to forget that vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide problem and not just in countries where sun exposure is low due to the season. A group of researchers led by Muhairi report on vitamin D deficiency in the sunny United Arab Emirates (UAE). Vitamin D is unusual among the vitamins because it is not just obtained from the diet but also from sun exposure. In addition, there are few good food sources of vitamin D: fatty fish and mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light are the only reasonable non-fortified sources, with low amounts found in egg and cheese. In sunny countries such as Australia, only 5-10% of vitamin D is obtained from the diet and the rest is from sun exposure

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    Hidden Hunger, Shorter Lives, and Poorer Health

    A new report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, entitled ‘U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health’ examined health trends from the late 1990’s forward. The consensus report uncovered a ‘strikingly consistent and pervasive pattern of higher mortality and inferior health in the United States, beginning at birth’. The United States fared worse than its peer countries in:

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    Nutrient Intervention Trials are Effective when Study Conditions are Appropriate

    Yesterday, we wrote about a study published by Thankachan and colleagues in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The authors reported that consuming a multi-nutrient fortified drink significantly reduced vitamin and mineral deficiencies in 246 Indian children (6-12y). Supplementation increased iron stores and reduced the prevalence of deficiencies for iron, vitamin C and vitamin B12 by 18%, 215, and 5%, respectively. Today, we report on a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Pinkaew and colleagues examined the impact of providing triple-fortified extruded rice

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    Fortified Multiple Micronutrient Drinks Reduce Nutrient Deficiencies

    Micronutrient deficiencies remain a serious problem, particularly in developing countries. A recent report from Thankachan and co-workers shows how a fortified drink can effectively improve indicators of micronutrient status in Indian schoolchildren. Particular nutrients have been identified as common problems in many countries throughout the world

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    Do You Want to be a Mother or Father? Vitamins are Essential

    A new meta-analysis reports that pregnant women in developed countries are often malnourished. Their intakes of many micronutrients, especially folate, vitamin D, iron and calcium, are inadequate. For American women, the list should include vitamin E since women of child-bearing age consume only 6-8 mg of the IOM recommended 15 mg daily. This is not new information. Fulgoni and co-authors examined the relative contribution of foods, fortified foods and dietary supplements to nutrient intake

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    Vitamin D: Contributing to Maternal, Newborn, Cardiovascular and General Health

    Hot on the heels of our post on the most researched vitamin of 2012 comes a slew of five articles in the latest issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism about vitamin D. The research interest in vitamin D comes from its role as a hormone, and related effects on many systems in the body. Unlike the other vitamins, it can be obtained both from the diet, and produced by the skin after sun exposure, therefore sufficiency is best estimated through measuring circulating levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the blood rather than focusing on intakes. Taking a lifespan nutrition approach, the first study by Gernand and colleagues prospectively measured pregnancy levels of vitamin D to see the effect on the neonate.

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    To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

    People eat to obtain nourishment. As soon as children are able to feed themselves, they begin to make choices over which things to eat first, what will be the last bite, and the rejected items. Through experience, and guidance/nagging, dietary choices become established. At some time, everyone is introduced to the mantra of dietary balance and moderation. This advice stems from the presumption that we can meet our nutrient requirements if we make wise choices. Of course, the assumption is that nutritionally balanced options are available and that we will make the ‘right’ choices. Food choices do matter. People who choose fortified foods and beverages have better nutrient intakes than those who choose foods which are not enriched/fortified. What if we don’t make good food choices?

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    Why Should Omega-3 Fatty Acids Turn an Unhealthy Heart into a Turbo-Charged, Power-Stroking Muscle?

    Irregular heartbeats, the most common type being atrial fibrillation (AF), are associated with increased cardiovascular risk and death. In 1995, Krahn and colleagues obtained data collected from 3,983 male air crew recruits who had been observed continuously for 44 years. In this cohort, 7.5% developed cardiac arrhythmias. The risk of developing AF increased with age and with heart conditions (eg myocardial infarctions, angina, hypertension). AF increased the risk of stroke and congestive heart failure. Treatments for AF include antiarrythmic drugs and agents which reduce blood coagulation, and therefore the effort required by the heart, to improve blood flow throughout the body. Higher circulating levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are associated with lower risk of incident AF in older adults.

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    Gaining Perspective on Scientific Publications: Are you Consuming Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

    What defines the ‘totality of the evidence’ in nutrition? When is there sufficient information to reach consensus among experts? And how does the person on the street distinguish when scientists are debating hypotheses versus communicating consensus? It is difficult to know whether the research record is reporting results or giving guidance on best practices. Many times, the facts will only become obvious in hindsight. However, as we begin 2013, we at pledge our resolve to help our readers understand the bigger picture by providing perspective around singular studies Let’s use omega-3 fatty acids and risk of cardiovascular disease as an example.

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