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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Be Evidence-Based. Don’t Let Superstitions Drive Your Health

By Michael McBurney

Friday the 13th is a day of superstitions. USA TODAY says there are 5 things to know on Friday the 13th. If you persist past the ads, you will learn about 5 possibilities with better odds of happening than winning a $400 million Mega Millions jackpot.  Here are insights from 3 research papers which will help you maintain health.

Introduction. Oxidative stress happens throughout life. Metabolism generates  free radicals which contribute to inflammation. Activities which increase metabolism, such as strenuous workouts, pregnancy,  or infections, contribute to oxidative stress, the production of free radicals and inflammation.

The metabolic demand of pregnancy depends upon many factors, including the age of the mother, her smoking habits, socioeconomic factors, and stress.  Oxidative stress and micronutrient inadequacies have been related to lower birth weight, small for gestational age, and preterm delivery. Weber and colleagues measured markers of oxidative stress and micronutrient levels in maternal and cord blood. Maternal  blood levels of β-carotene, α-tocopherol and lutein were positively correlated with cord blood concentrations. Mothers who had preterm babies also had lower vitamin E (α-tocopherol) levels (41.4 vs 46.2 µmol/L) although these levels are almost double the 1010 µg/dL (23.5 µmol/L) observed in US females 20-39y (Table 2.4.a.2)

Exertion can cause inflammation in muscles. We know this because we are familiar with the pain and soreness which can happen after overusing a muscle group. Norman and colleagues measured a biomarker of inflammation, C-reactive protein (CRP), and handgrip strength in 620 hospitalized, non-critically ill adult patients. Handgrip strength was reduced in inflammation, even mild acute inflammation. Unfortunately, they did not measure any markers of nutrient status.

But maintaining a healthy immune system capable of managing oxidative stress involves more than antioxidant vitamins. A growing body of literature suggests that omega-3 long-chain fatty acids (LCPUFA), especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), may influence individual sensitivity to stress (see review by Denis et al, 2013). The ingestion of LCPUFA can reduce exercise-induced production of inflammatory eicosanoids, cytokines and reactive oxygen species (Mickleborough, 2013).

Not everyone is superstitious.  However, it  seems prudent to avoid walking under ladders. Similarly, nutrients are not lucky charms but nutrition is important for health. Severe nutrient inadequacies cause deficiency diseases. Optimal nutrient status is needed to support the structure and normal functioning of cells. Nutrients maintain health. Live, eat and prosper.


Weber D, Stuetz W, Bernhard W, Franz A, Raith M, Grune T, Breusing N. Oxidative stress markers and micronutrients in maternal and cord blood in relation to neonatal outcome. 2013 Eur J Clin Nutr doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.263

Norman K, Stobaus N, Kulka K, Schulzke J. Effect of inflammation on handgrip strength in the non-critically ill is independent from age, gender and body composition. 2013 Eur J Clin Nutr doi: 10.1038/ejch.2013.261

Denis I, Potier B, Vancassel S, Heberden C, Lavialle M. Omega-3 fatty acids and brain resistance to ageing and stress: Body of evidence and possible mechanisms. 2013 Ageing Res Rev doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2013.01.007

Mickleborough TD. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in physical performance optimization. 2013 Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 23:83-96

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