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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'March 2014'

    March4Nutrition: Keeping Children Alive all 365 Days of the Year

    Today is the last day of Nutrition Month characterized by #March4Nutrition in twitter. We should never overlook the power of nutrition in the first 1000 days of life. When babies are in the womb, they obtain all their nutrients from their mother. If mothers are not consuming enough iron, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), lutein, zeaxanthin, or zinc, the child will be playing catch-up before birth and while breast feeding. 

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    Omega-3 Index, Inflammation and Cardiovascular Health

    Inflammation is observed in individuals,  especially obese persons, even without evidence of cardiovascular disease, a high incidence of metabolic syndrome and risk of diabetes. Inflammation may lead to atherosclerosis of vessels to increase risk of stroke and heart attack. Although prescription medicines called statins appear to reduce arterial inflammation, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines to expand statin therapies to older individuals without cardiovascular disease discounts the role of nutrition in maintaining health.

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    Sleep, Diet and Exercise: Keys to Weight and Health Management

    Alyssa Sparacino, contributor to Health, claims there are 11 health benefits of sleep. WebMD’s R Robin Griffin lists 9 reasons to get more sleep. They include better health, better sex life, less pain and lower risk of injury. A new study finds the list of sleep benefits should also include making healthier food choices.

    Kruger and colleagues analyzed cross-sectional data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. In-home interviews were conducted with a nationally representative sample of American adolescents (n = 14,738) between 1994-2008. 

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Pregnancy and Child Health

    Maternal nutrition is especially important during pregnancy to meet the nutritional needs of both mother and child. Because of the rapid development of the child’s brain and eye during the last trimester in utero,  long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential. Fetal assimilation of LCPUFA is influenced by maternal ω-3 [DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)] and ω-6 fatty acid concentrations.

    Standl and colleagues measured cord blood LCPUFA in German women 

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    Errors in Meta-Analysis, Scientific Frustration and Nutrition Guidance

    Wait for it….Scientists call for new media coverage to correct misinformation generated from a March 17 Annals of Internal Medicine paper “Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk: A systematic Review and Meta-analysis”. [Link to corrected paper]. But don’t count on  new headlines on the subject. While scientists may be outraged by shoddy methodology, poor reviewing, and calling for retraction, it is unlikely this scientific correction will reach consumers.

    While perspectives on the original paper are accessible on TalkingNutrition, (Mar 17 and Mar 18), readers have to cross a paywall to see the corrected paper, the supplemental data and the original version published on Mar 17

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    School Lunch Programs, Nutrition Adequacy, and Sustainability

    How do we motivate children to eat more fruit and vegetables? We know they are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals with relatively few calories per serving. Really, this isn’t just a question about children. Why doesn’t everybody choose to more fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods? Around the world, leaders face the paradox of malnutrition coexisting in the same individuals as undernutrition and overweight-obesity. While current nutrition policy seems driven by an obsession to help constrain overweight-obesity by encouraging consumption of fruit and vegetables, is the policy sustainable and improving nutrition?

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    Questioning Medical Recommendations on Drugs vs Multivitamin Supplements

    Application of the new statin therapy guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease is estimated to add 12.8 million people needing prescriptions, increasing the total number of people using statins to 56 million. Eighty percent (10.4 million) would be adults without cardiovascular disease. Why is there a medical agenda to use drugs to manage cardiovascular health in a non-diseased population? Nutrition should be the first choice in preventive health. In the “ Smart Prevention – Health Care Cost Savings Resulting from the Targeted Use of Dietary Supplements”,  Frost & Sullivan reported significant health care cost savings can be achieved by increasing consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, three B vitamins (folic acid, B6, and B12), and dietary fiber.

    Better nutrition could decrease total health care expenditures. How much does a statin prescription cost monthly? 

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    Did You Catch the Latest on Vitamins and Hearing Loss?

    Attentive readers of TalkingNutrition will remember our post from late last year on antioxidant vitamins and hearing loss. That study showed that intakes of vitamins C, E and beta-carotene was associated with better hearing in a US population. Another group of researchers lead by Choi has recently performed a similar analysis of a different population: a representative sample of older Korean adults. Read on to find out whether the same trends were seen.

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    Low Carotenoid Intakes, Genetics, and Breast Cancer Risk in Women

    Carotenoids in fruit and vegetables have been linked with lower cancer risks. The main carotenoids  in our diets are α-carotene, β-carotene, lycopene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids are antioxidants, helping protect DNA against oxidative damage, and supporting immune function.

    Wang and colleagues (2014) examined the relationship between carotenoid intake and breast cancer among Chinese women. They compared dietary intake data obtained with a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) among 561 cancer cases and 

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    Special Interests by Scientists, Publishers, Media and Nutrition Guidance on Fats

    According to headlines, dietary fat doesn’t play a role in cardiovascular disease (CVD). What is happening? Is everything we thought we knew wrong? No, but there are factors at play. 1) Scientists are promoted and rewarded for publishing in peer review journals. 2) Managing Boards of scientific journals want higher citation ratings and subscription sales.  3) Media conglomerate revenues depend upon the number of viewers/readers they attract.

    The convergence of these 3 agendas creates media storms that are not necessarily aligned with public interest. How? 

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    Dissecting Dietary Fats and Heart Disease: The Story Continues

    Cardiovascular disease and cancer are ‘catchall’ medical phrases because they encompass a wide variety of different diagnoses. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to the failure of the heart muscle to pump properly (congestive heart failure), abnormal rhythms of the heart (arrhythmia) or heart valve leakages. CVD also includes hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) which causes blockages, stopping blood flow to the heart (ischemia) or the brain (stroke).  WebMD describes all of these as CVD.

    Researchers identified a relationship between dietary fat and CVD over 50 years ago. Subsequently, much has been learned about the relative importance of fat type (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fatty acids). It is known that the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet affects the types of prostaglandins, eicosanoids and leukotrienes which are generated

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    Antioxidants, Vitamins, Carotenoids and Eye Health

    Rautiainen and colleagues report that eating a diet rich in antioxidants is associated with reduced risk of age-related cataracts. Colorful fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals, teas and spices are good sources of antioxidants. Why are antioxidants important for eye health?

    The retina of the eye consists of light-sensitive cells. These cells turn light into electric signals that are transmitted to the brain. 

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    Prostate Cancer and Vitamin E – The Forgotten “Nutrient of Concern”

    For years, health professionals recommended vitamin E supplementation. The rationale can be found in a meta-analysis of 19 trials reporting significant increased risk of mortality associated with decreasing serum α-tocopherol concentrations below ~30 nmol/L (Fig 2). However, a 2005 meta-analysis of vitamin E intervention trials had a significant cooling effect on professional opinion, even though the pharmaceutical approach (intervention versus placebo) was used to evaluate the data did not consider serum α-tocopherol concentrations.

    In a new study, Major and colleagues report that genetic variants in genes involved in vitamin E transport and metabolism may explain inconsistent conclusions from vitamin E supplementation trials, at least with respect to prostate cancer risk. 

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    Putting Your Mind to Rest by Optimizing Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Health

    By now you will have seen the headlines: Algal DHA Omega-3 Supplementation Improves Sleep Duration in School-Aged Children, Diet Rich in Omega-3s Linked to Better Sleep,  and Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Improve Children’s Sleep Patterns: Study. What is the science behind the story?

    The Docosahexaenoic Acid Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (RCT) testing the effect of a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), on reading, working memory, and behavior of healthy children 

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    Aaahhh, the Joys (and Science) of Resveratrol and Red Wine

    When my RSS reader displayed “Dark chocolate, red wine good for the heart”, it was the promise of a good day! How much more could one want? Nutrition and pleasure in the same swallow. A deeper dive into the scientific literature helps explain mechanisms of action.

    Konings and colleagues report that resveratrol supplementation decreased fat cell size and altered lipid catabolism pathways. 

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    Brain Structure, Nutrition, Concussion, and Cognition

    Concussion is a common injury, especially among athletes participating in contact sports such as hockey and football.  The most common causes of TBI are falls, motor vehicle accidents, and being struck by objects. Concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), can impair memory. Many TBI are not reported. TBI is the leading killer of Canadian children and adolescents. In Australia, the lifetime costs of TBI are estimated at $2.5 million and $4.8 million for moderate and severe TBI, respectively.

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    Read All About It: Get Your Vitamin D Now!

    This may seem obvious but nutritional status reflects nutrient intakes. That is the message from a new research study. Choosing nutrient dense foods, those having more vitamins and minerals per serving or per 100 calories, or using dietary supplements is associated with better vitamin status. Eating enriched or fortified foods reduces the risk of inadequate nutrient intake among children and adolescents. In fact, the same can be said for everyone over 2y of age; dietary supplementation helps fill the nutrient gap left by diet.

    So what is novel about this study? Vitamin D is exceptional in that we are not exclusively diet dependent. Skin makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. 

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    More Evidence of Cardiovascular Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Hey guys!  Listen up! US men are 3 times more likely to have calcified coronary arteries than Japanese men, even after adjusting for known cardiovascular risk factors (cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, diabetes and blood cholesterol levels). Why? Sekikawa and colleagues attribute this observation to low omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) intakes.

    Japanese men consume ~3 times more omega-3 fatty acids [eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] than US men

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    Is your Vitamin D Status Optimized to Maintain your Health?

    Without dietary supplementation, many people fail to eat enough foods rich in vitamin D or get enough direct sunlight on skin surfaces to maintain optimal serum 25(OH)D levels.  With suboptimal vitamin D levels, we can feel tired, be more prone to falls, minor respiratory infections and other non-communicable diseases. Based on abnormalities in bone maintenance and accretion, the Institute of Medicine defined serum 25(OH)D concentrations below 30 nmol/L as deficient and 50 nmol/L as adequate.

    Using data from 2000 participants in the Diabetes Prevention Trial, Mitri and colleagues report that low vitamin D status increases the risk of metabolic syndrome. 

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    Nutrients to Maintain Health and Cognitive Function as We Age

    According to ABC Sydney, ‘dementia’ and ‘cancer’ are two of the things we fear most.  Tom Sightings, a former publishing executive who eased into retirement in his mid-50s, writes of 5 activities to improve brain function but he doesn’t mention nutrition (US News Money). Nutrition shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Using dietary and blood analyses and cognitive scores obtained from 2,983 middle-aged adults participating in the SU.VI.MAX (Supplementation en Vitamines et Mineraux Antioxydants) study, Kesse-Guyot and colleagues report that the consumption of dietary carotenoids are correlated with cognitive performance 13 years later. 

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    On a Slow Monday, is the Solution More Lutein and Zeaxanthin?

    To be honest, I don’t know what to make of the study by Thomson and colleagues reporting that increases in plasma lutein concentrations may positively affect physical activity and reduce sedentary behavior. Correlations do not infer causality. I would have dismissed the paper but it was a randomized, controlled trial. Forty-four older adults (68.8y) were randomized to receive 21 mg lutein or placebo with 250 mL of full-cream milk per day for 4 weeks.  It should also be noted that these individuals had very low lutein and zeaxanthin serum levels (14.5 µg/dL) even after supplementation. [See discussion below].

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