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TalkingNutrition

Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'February 2013'

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    Urbanization, Lunchboxes, and Food Fights

    The world is becoming increasingly urbanized. Check out the infographic on Kris Sollid’s blog @FoodInsight if you have any doubts. With more and more people living in cities, it leaves fewer people being able to grow/raise their own foods. If you live in one of the 20 largest cities in the world, you will be increasingly dependent upon an agri-food industry capable of bringing safe, nutritious foods to you. There are 847 urban areas in the world with over 500,000 people. That creates a lot of competition for locally grown produce and livestock. So, most of us our food security is dependent upon the products and services provided by others. As Melanie Warner, author of Pandora’s Lunchbox, and Kris Sollid both write, “it’s important to understand what we are eating.” However, it is even more important to have food choices. But without a food industry, most of us will be hungry. And more importantly, our nutrition would probably be worse.

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    Optimal Nutrition, Non-Communicable Diseases, and Nutrition Policy

    Today is the first day of IFT Wellness 13 with sessions describing the impact of inadequate intakes of vitamins A, C, E, D, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), zinc and magnesium on eye, and to a lesser extent, brain health. There are also sessions on the role of food fortification to address nutrient shortfalls. The economic impact of inadequate nutrition is staggering. Nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc have profound effects on mortality and life-adjusted life years for children ≤5 years of age. Undernutrition leads to stunting and increases the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCD). In their summary of the 11th European Nutrition Conference,

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    Having an Adequate Intake of Vitamin D and Calcium is Not an Option

    Left hand, right hand. Increase taxes, reduce spending. A good diet is sufficient, taking a dietary supplement provides insurance. What should I do? Who to listen to? Well, today’s blog is about the middle majority. The majority trying to eat a balanced diet, trying to make nutrient-rich food choices, and regularly using dietary supplements as insurance. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) conducted two systematic reviews and a meta-analysis to weigh the pros and cons of supplementing with higher doses of calcium and vitamin D. Data from studies involving community-living (noninstitutionalized) without a history of fractures. Based on selected studies, the USPSTF concluded there was insufficient evidence to confirm that taking a 1,000 mg calcium supplement with 400 IU vitamin D daily would prevent primary fractures.

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    Medicare-related Health Costs, Antioxidant Vitamins and Diabetes

    According to the most recent CDC National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 26.9% of Americans 65y and older were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010. That is almost 11 million people. It is estimated that almost 80 million Americans have prediabetes. The WHO estimates 347 million people have diabetes worldwide. In a new study, Taylor and colleagues report people with type 2 diabetes have a two-fold increased risk of all-cause mortality and 3-fold risk of cardiovascular mortality. The risk is greater for women than men. We know that nutrition is a factor. Better management of blood glucose levels reduces risk. Are there other nutrients which could be important? Yes, two antioxidant nutrients should not be forgotten – vitamin E and C.

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    B Vitamin Nutrition, Homocysteine, and Risk of Colon Cancer in the WHI

    One drawback of nutrition research is that we all consume and require a broad range of micronutrients, therefore it is difficult to study the effects of one particular molecule without considering the context of the entire diet. The B vitamins provide a well studied example in the way they are involved with amino acid metabolism. Miller and associates recently studied how the B vitamins and related amino acid homocysteine affect risk of colorectal cancer. Elevated homocysteine levels are a nonspecific indicator of poor B vitamin status. This is because the conversion of homocysteine back to cysteine or methionine requires the actions of four different B-vitamins: folic acid, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Is there a link with preventing colon cancer?

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    Reassuring for Parents-to-be: DHA Supplements During Pregnancy Reduce Preterm Births and Time in NICU

    Whether a parent or not, everyone recognizes the vulnerability of newborn infants. Even when healthy, newborns are completely reliant on their caregivers to anticipate their needs and provide the appropriate care. For infants born prematurely or with an unusually low birth weight, care is even more difficult due to health complications. Preterm infants have not had enough time in the womb to fully develop. Infants born small for their gestational age may have had their growth restricted. These infants have a higher risk of illness, the effects which may be life-long. Carlson and co-workers reported yesterday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on the effects of DHA supplementation in the second half of pregnancy of women in Kansas city on birth outcomes such as birth weight and risk of preterm birth.

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    Are Low Vitamin D Levels a Cause of Health Disparities?

    Vitamin D is an exception in the vitamin world because it can – under some conditions – be produced by the body without the need for a dietary source. Adequate vitamin D is produced by the skin when exposed to UVB light of sufficient strength. This is good, because there are few good food sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D production is not the same in everyone, however. Individuals with darker skin produce less vitamin D. In fact, it is thought that darker skin color provides a survival advantage to people living in sunny climates because it protects from the negative effects of too much sun. The drawback occurs when year-round sunlight is not available, placing these people at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. A nationally representative survey of the United States, a country with both high- and low-sunshine regions, found that darker skinned individuals are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency

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    Assessing Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status with Dietary Intakes vs Biologic Measures

    The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are known to affect inflammatory pathways, brain and cognitive function, cardiovascular health, vision, and more. The children of women with higher omega-3 status during pregnancy have a lower risk of being autistic. For these reasons, many people are trying to eat more oily fish and seafood, choose omega-3 fortified foods and beverages, and often take an omega-3 supplement. The questions become: how much DHA and EPA is enough? And how do I know if my omega-3 status is optimal?

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    Nutrients to Maintain Vision Throughout Life

    Aging is only better than the alternative – not getting old. So many parts of your body change. One of the changes is visual acuity. At least that must be the reason because there aren’t any clear indicators my arms are shortening! Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of irreversible visual loss. Although AMD has many contributing factors, nutrition influences visual performance. The retina of the eye concentrates two dietary carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is an important constituent of photoreceptor membranes and has many beneficial effects (anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenisis, and anti-apoptotic) in the retina. Choosing carotenoid-rich foods or supplements can increase macular pigment density which has been shown to reduce glare discomfort , shorten recovery time to bright light (e.g. oncoming headlights at night), and enhance visual acuity (distance and contrast).

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    Being Smart, Levering Experts, to Develop Nutritionally Superior Products and Concepts

    Knowledge is power. But keeping up with the onslaught of new research is challenging. Like the adage, it can feel like drinking from a fire hose. Another analogy is trying to stay upright while crossing an ice-cold, raging, mountain stream. In both cases, success depends a great deal on experience and knowing the right approach. When it comes to successful innovation, there are lots of pitfalls. Levering experts is valuable. Professional organizations can help. As a food professional, an investment of less than 2 full days can help you integrate nutrition science, product formulation and consumer interest into meaningful product concepts. The IFT Wellness 13 conference can be your trifecta for success.

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    Folate Recommendations during Pregnancy Intersect with Personalized Nutrition

    Autism is becoming more prevalent in children. In 2000, approximately 1 child out of every 150 was diagnosed with autism-related disorders. The most recent estimate from the CDC (2008) is 1 child in 88. Why is this? Suren and colleagues studied the association between maternal folic acid supplement use during pregnancy and the risk of autism spectrum disorders in the child. Their sample had 85,176 children from Norway born between 2002 – 2008. Folic acid dietary supplement use was defined as ‘the 4 weeks leading up to pregnancy to 8 weeks after the start of pregnancy’. 270 children were diagnosed with an autistic disorder.

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    Feeding the Brain: A Lifelong Mission

    Epidemiology is always valuable for generating hypotheses based on statistical associations. However, statistical relationships do not characterize cause and care must be taken when teasing out the relative contribution of different factors. Case in point, Nguyen and colleagues analyzed measures of cognitive function in 5,635 children (6-16 years) and serum folate and vitamin B12 concentrations collected from 1988-1994, before mandatory folate fortification of grains. Mean folate and vitamin B12 concentrations were 8.5 ng/mL and 631 pg/mL, respectively. They found significant relationships among folate concentrations and measures of cognitive performance (math, reading, digit span test and block design scores).

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    Valentine’s Day is Coming: Are you Getting Enough EPA and DHA for your Heart?

    Ever wondered if you were consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids to be good for your heart? It is always interesting to ask researchers about nutrient recommendations. Some experts will give a personal endorsement. Others will say the evidence is insufficient and more research is needed. Others will declare their commitment to the concept ‘do no harm’ and preach against the dangers of excesses. Who to believe? What to do? Two new studies help us reach a decision. They build upon the 2002 American Heart Association scientific statement: Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in epidemiological and clinical trials to reduce the incidence of CVD. Large-scale epidemiological studies suggest that

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    Antioxidants and Muscle Function: How Far can a Person go on Empty?

    Antioxidants protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. Many experts believe that oxidative damage increases inflammation which contributes to chronic diseases. Consuming diets rich in antioxidant vitamins (vitamins C, E, beta-carotene) can prepare the body to neutralize oxidative damage. The Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants and has been associated with lowered risk of certain cardiovascular disease. Mattioli and colleagues examined the health outcomes of 800 subjects with a history of atrial fibrillation (AF) with varying adherence to a Mediterranean diet. In this case-control study,

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    Focusing on Dietary Fat Sources: Fatty Acid Balance is Key to Health

    A new study concludes that not all polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are identical when substituting for saturated fats. Ramsden and colleagues evaluated data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) conducted in 1966-1973. The RCT substituted saturated fatty acids in margarine with the omega-6 PUFA linoleic acid (LA) from safflower oil. In the intervention, participants were provided with liquid safflower oil and safflower oil polyunsaturated margarine which was used in place of butter and other margarines. Safflower oil is primarily (~75%) composed of linolenic acid (LA) and <1% of omega-3 fatty acids. In the late 1960-70’s, prior to the introduction of trans fat labeling in the US in 2006 and elsewhere, margarines contained significant amounts of trans fatty acids.

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    Complementary Foods and the First 2 Years of a Child’s Life

    From the beginning of a mother’s pregnancy until a child’s 2nd birthday is a unique time when nutrition forever affects the health and future of the child – the first 1,000 days. Childhood malnutrition is devastating. In 2011, UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank estimated 165 million children under 5y were stunted – 36% of all children in Arica and 27% in Asia. The lack of vital nutrients – vitamins, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals – limits children from being healthy and as productive as they could be in adulthood. In India, 30% of infants 0-5 months of age are wasting and 20% are stunted. Childhood anemia affects 70-90% of children born in India. Iron supplementation increases iron intake but anemia is multifactorial. Often iron is only the limiting nutrient. Because of the complexity of hidden hunger, Sachdev and Gera recognize anemia cannot be eliminated by a single magic bullet.

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    Dietary Supplements: Separating Adequate Nutrition from Pharmacologic Doses

    When it comes to using dietary supplements, the goal should be nutrient adequacy. While scientists can test hypotheses like excess vitamin C triggers the formation of kidney stones or high calcium intakes may contribute, people still to meet recommended dietary intakes. Is more of anything always better? No. Balance and moderation are important terms when it comes to nutrition but people need to know the science. Consuming Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) of vitamins and minerals is essential for health. It is not hypothetical to state that inadequate vitamin C intake leads to scurvy. The fact is that 6% of Americans are vitamin C deficient. The reality is that the average calcium intake of Americans >9y is less than the recommended daily intake of 1200-1300mg.

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    Nutrition Economics: The Costs of Malnutrition and Hidden Hunger

    Business, politics, technology, and health all intersect when government leaders discuss present realities and future prospects. One cannot attribute the economic impact of one without the other. Lenoir-Wijnkoop and colleagues bring this together in their paper “Nutrition Economics- Food as an Ally of Public Health”. The paper summarizes presentations from the 11th European Nutrition Conference. Key points:

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    Rates of Folic Acid Supplementation Highlight Need for Integrated Approach to Improve Infant and Maternal Health

    Folic acid and iron are two especially important micronutrients for women planning a pregnancy. Branum, Bailey and Singer report on folic acid and iron supplement use in pregnant women in the Journal of Nutrition. Folic acid is a B-vitamin needed for the proper development of the spinal cord in the fetus, and inadequate intakes reduce the risk of neural tube defects (see recommendation from US Preventive Services Task Force). In 1998, before wide-scale folic acid fortification was introduced in many countries, there were around 300,000 births affected by neural tube defects, according to a report by the CDC. Folic acid fortification in the US increased folic acid levels in the population according to the USDA, but recent data indicates that around 20% of women of childbearing age do not meet the Estimated Average Requirement for folate

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