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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'June 2014'


    Looking into the Future: A Week of Carotenoids

    The 17th International Symposium on Carotenoids begins today. The meeting brings together experts from around the world. Topics will range from spectroscopy and synthesis to photosynthesis and microbial production of carotenoids for human consumption and disease prevention. The themes are:

    •    - Carotenoids in the Eye and Brain
    •    - Chemical Synthesis, Analysis and Industrial Production

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    Would Nutritional Status Maps Influence where you Choose to Live?

    In an extremely insightful article in Scientific American, Melinda Wenner Moyer identifies the challenges in getting a clear, cohesive picture on the role nutrients play in maintaining health. Within the article she cites Dr Robert Heaney’s guidelines on study design.

    1.       Measure baseline nutrient status, use status as an inclusion criterion, and in reporting results.

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    Foods are Safe, Regulated by the FDA and to be Enjoyed by Families

    According to The Economist, research studies can make ‘big news’ and then after the dust settles scientists sometimes discover errors in peer-reviewed findings. Spectacularly bad reporting can lead to claims that hurricanes with feminine names were more ‘deadly’ than hurricanes with masculine names (see Why Female Hurricanes Made Getting the Story Right, Hard by Paige Brown).

    The Environmental Working Group issued a report “How Much is Too Much? Excess Vitamins in Minerals in Food Can Harm Kids’Health”. 

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    How Does Socioeconomic Status Affect Nutrient Intakes, and Why Is This Important for Public Health?

    Unfortunately, health gradients exist that relate to socioeconomic status. People of lower socioeconomic status tend to have poorer health outcomes than those with higher socioeconomic status. While this may be partly related to a lack of access to health care and other resources due to lower income, other factors such as education level, supportive familial and social networks and personal factors are clearly involved. Health education and promotion activities aimed at improving health outcomes in the general population may actually exacerbate health inequalities between low  and high socioeconomic status groups due to greater uptake of the intervention in the high socioeconomic status group. This reduces the power of interventions to change the health of the population, as the people in greatest need of the health promotion activity are less likely to change their behavior based on the intervention. Is there anything that can be effective? 

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    Reducing Calorie Intakes With Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

    The obesity epidemic is a concern for countries all over the world. The problem is not just restricted to high-income countries paradoxically, both undernutrition and obesity can coexist within populations. There are many underlying causes of obesity that relate to both individual choices, biology, society and the environment. The World Health Organisation states that obesity is a “social and environmental disease” and encourages the development of strategies to make healthy choices easier. Can non-nutritive sweeteners help?

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    Food Fortification, Nutrient Status, Deficiency, Adequacy and Safety

    Children around the world are starving or being overfed and undernourished.  Why? Because the foods they eat do not provide recommended amounts of essential nutrients – vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids. 165 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition that leaves them permanently stunted. They lack nutrients (iron, iodine, DHA, lutein) required for normal brain development.  

    Why is this relevant to the United States? Because fortified foods and beverages are important sources of vitamins and minerals. Children who do not consume fortified/enriched foods 

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    Possible Concentrations of an Essential Element in the Diet

    Stop Wasting Money on Nutrition Interventions in Well-Nourished People

    As scientists began studying deficiency diseases, they discovered vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids and fats by fractionating and isolating compounds from foods. Extracts were added back to purified diets. Carefully designed experiments comparing diets (control vs interventions) were used to remedy deficiencies and define nutrient requirements. Adding nutrients to a diet consumed by individuals with suboptimal nutrient status has measurable effects, e.g. increased growth, decreased mortality, etc. The magnitude of the response depends upon the nutritional status of the subjects. Adding nutrients to the diet of individuals with optimal nutrient status doesn’t generally change outcomes unless subjects are exposed to dangerously high intakes

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    Childhood Stunting: First 1000 Days and Thereafter

    Children need love and nurturing to grow. They also need clean water to drink, sanitation, and nutrients. Macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) support metabolism and the proliferation of cells to grow tiny bodies into adolescent and adult forms. Vitamins and minerals are essential co-factors of energy metabolism and required to support cellular structure and function. Without a supply of all these nutrients, growth falters. The right nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life, from the beginning a women’s pregnancy until her child’s 2nd birthday, has an enormous impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty.

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    In Europe and the US, Higher Vitamin D Levels Reduce Risk of Mortality

    Just last week, we published a blog on how higher vitamin D levels were associated with better survival rates in women with breast cancer. Now a meta-analysis of 8 studies in Europe and the US by Schöttker et al has also found lower rates of all-cause mortality in subjects with the highest levels of vitamin D. For cancer deaths, higher vitamin D levels protected against people with a history of cancer. How did they reach these conclusions?

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    Transferring Eating Behaviors from Generation to Generation

    In opening remarks to attendees of the “International Maternal and Child Nutrition: Initiating Research Through Multistakeholder Collaboration” forum, DSM CEO Feike Sibjesma and Chair of the SUN Business Platform, said “3,000 children die around the world every day due to inadequate nutrient intake, while on the other hand, more than one billion people globally suffer from overweight and obesity.These are disturbing numbers. Why are so many children malnourished? Many reasons exist; poverty and war being two primary causes.

    But even in developed countries, food insecurity exists.  Masters and colleagues examined 

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    Resveratrol, Pregnancy, and Acceptable Daily Intakes

    According to Yahoo! News, women who might become pregnant should not use resveratrol supplements.  Pregnancy is an especially sensitive experience and women should be cautious about the substances ingested (and inhaled). After all, cigarette smoking is known to increase the risk of premature birth. Although alcohol consumption increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, it  is the dose that matters. Pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol altogether but 1 or 2 drinks once or twice a week is permitted.

    Recent resveratrol headlines should have a similar caveat. Roberts and colleagues fed pregnant female macaques a diet containing 0.37% resveratrol for 9 months.

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    Vitamin D, Tanning and All-cause Mortality

    The Jersey Shore is a beautiful place especially in the summer. While grocery shopping this week, I was amazed to see 3 women with evidence of extreme sun exposure. While they may perceive themselves to be beautifully tanned, their skin appeared wrinkled and leathery. If not vanity, could they be pursuing extreme tanning for health reasons?

    Low vitamin D status is associated with increased risk of premature death. Garland and colleagues report that people with serum 25(OH)D3 levels below 75 nmol/L 

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    Consumer Attitudes and Changing Behaviors

    Yesterday’s blog was about coaching couch potatoes off the sofa (or their office chair). Increasing physical activity is beneficial. Sedentary time is associated with increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality. Staying healthy requires more than a prescription. Health care costs will continue to rise as physicians increasingly recommend statin drugs to reduce the risk of heart disease. Even worse, new research finds statin users expend less physical effort (measured in metabolic equivalents or METS), exercise less vigorously, and exhibit more sedentary behavior than their non-medicated counterparts.

    How do we encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices? 

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    Coaching the Couch Potato Off the Sofa and Office Chair

    A few years ago, a number of influential studies were published that linked a greater amount of time spent sitting with an increased mortality risk. For example, Bjørk Petersen and colleagues found a doubled risk of mortality when people sitting less than 6 hours per day were compared to those sitting more than 10 hours per day in a large group of Danish adults. Pavey and co-workers also found that elderly Australian women who sat for more than 11 hours per day had a 1.5 times higher risk of death compared to women sitting less than 4 hours. Is there anything we can do to encourage us to move more?

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    Tomatoes for Heart Health: More Evidence From Intervention Studies

    TalkingNutrition has reported before on the health benefits of high intakes of tomatoes and tomato-based products over the past few years*. Tomatoes, like all fruits and vegetables, contain a complex and undefined mix of bio-active compounds. Lower rates of heart disease in people consuming higher levels of tomatoes and tomato products are likely to arise from both lycopene, the fat-soluble carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color, and water-soluble components in the tomato. A recent clinical study has investigated how lycopene affects measures of blood vessel function in cardiovascular disease. 

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    Newfoundland, Vitamin D Synthesis, and Diabetes Risk

    Members of the Canadian Society for Nutrition are meeting in St John’s Newfoundland. “The Rock” is known for its grey (Canadian spelling intended), overcast, damp maritime climate.  Fog is common. President Robert Bertola aptly described the weather in opening remarks, “If the landing wasn’t  instruments only where you feel the ground before seeing the ground from the plane, you haven’t truly experienced Newfoundland!”

    Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 concentrations fluctuate seasonally, increasing with sun exposure during the summer and falling in the winter. Low serum 25(OH)D3 is associated with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. 

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    Change is Constant: Even Breast Milk Varies with Dietary Intake

    Experts recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. Breast milk has antibodies to help defend against infections and prevent allergies. WebMD suggests breast feeding may even raise a child’s intelligence. Accumulating evidence suggests that breast milk composition is not a ‘gold standard’; composition actually reflects the mother’s diet. Better maternal nutrition yields better infant nutrition.

    Sherry and colleagues measured the lutein and zeaxanthin content in breast milk of nursing mothers and the plasma of their babies at 2-3 months of age. 

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    Are your Eyes (and Brain) Getting Enough Lutein and Zeaxanthin? Probably Not

    The National Eye Institute measured a 25% reduction in risk of progressing to advanced macular degeneration (AMD) and a 35% reduction over 10 years in participants supplementing with the Age-Related Eye Disease (AREDS) multivitamin and mineral formulation. AREDS2 confirmed this benefit and secondary analyses found that the addition of lutein and zeaxanthin to the formulation provided an additional 10% reduction in the risk of AMD.

    Lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin are found in the retina of the eye. Lutein and zeaxanthin have to be consumed from the diet. 

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    Experts Reiterate Importance of Multivitamin Supplements to Fill Nutrient Gaps

    In the December 2013 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, the Editor and staff orchestrated the publication of and editorial entitled ‘Enough is Enough’ along with 3 multivitamin intervention trials. Today, the journal published a series of letters with strong responses by scientists.

    Drs Balz Frei (Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University), Bruce Ames (Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute), Jeffrey Blumberg (Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition and Science Policy), and Walter Willett (Harvard School of Public Health) 

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    Children and Summer: A Time to Introduce and Savor Vegetables

    Most of children don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables. It is a fact. As adults, we aren’t much better. Fortunately, for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, this is the season of hope. Summer is bringing garden-fresh zucchini, peas, carrots, tomatoes, corn on the cob, and succulent strawberries. If you don’t garden, fresh produce will be showing up in local roadside stands and local marketplace. Yummm!

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