A human hearts beat 100,000 times per day, 35 million times per year, and more than 2.5 billion times during the average lifetime. It pushes about 5.6 liters (6 quarts) of blood around the body three times every minute. An amazing amount of work. Most people understand that omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPFUFA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have heart health benefits. The mechanism of action is presumed to be related to LCPUFA effects on blood lipid concentrations. There may be more to the EPA and DHA story than changes in lipid fractions.
Archive for 'October 2014'
In the US, a supplement is taken orally and intended to “supplement the diet” with ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanical products, amino acids and substances such as metabolites. The Council for Responsible Nutrition reports that 68% of US adults report taking dietary supplements (50% report being regular users). The majority (>95%) use multivitamin-mineral supplements. An overwhelming majority (83%) express confidence in the safety, quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements.
Nutrition science developed from a desire to understand the components of a healthy diet. The goal of nutrition guidance (nutrition policy) is to guide human behavior, including food choices, to favor health and longevity. By helping people understand the 5 food groups in the context of a healthy plate, government agencies hope to influence nutritional value of our diet and ultimately, human health.
There are approximately 56 million Americans living with disabilities, and living with a disability is associated with a higher likelihood of having health issues such as obesity, hypertension, and many others. People with disabilities need to pay attention to their diet and lifestyle to help support their health just like anyone else, but relatively little is known about what these individuals are consuming.
You may already be aware that the FDA has proposed numerous revisions to the ever present “Nutrition Facts” panel present on the side of nearly all foods you buy. In the Personal Health section of Sunday’s New York Times, author Jane Brody wrote about these revisions – praising some changes yet also pointing out areas which she felt that the proposal left things to be desired. Relying on a quote from former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler, Ms. Brody was specifically critical of what she felt was a lack of promotion of “real foods” in the new Nutrition Facts panel, saying that “Instead, the new label, like the current one, would focus on specific nutrients and give ‘food companies an incentive to fortify their products so they can make claims such as added fiber’… ”. Given that the average daily intake of dietary fiber is roughly half of the recommendation in certain age/gender groups – why is fortification being painted as a bad thing?
The fatty acids found in the membranes of erythrocytes, also known as red blood cells (RBC), reflect the type of fats (animal, plant, seafood) being consumed and their fatty acid composition (saturated, monosaturated, polyunsaturated). The omega-3 index, the percentage of total fatty acids which are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in RBC membranes may be a biomarker of cardiovascular risk, especially cardiac death.
The World Health Organisation considers Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to have “revolutionized” the treatment of severe malnutrition in children. RUTF saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of children every year. RUTF are shelf-stable pastes that can be used at home, and contain a nutritionally-balanced mix of ingredients that provide children with the energy, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals for them to put on weight and treat deficiency. But how can it be developed from local ingredients, and within the demanding nutritional and price-related constraints?
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that supports healthy bones, muscles and more, yet more than 90% of Americans don’t get enough in their diets. This is partly due to the fact that naturally occurring vitamin D is not found in high amounts in many foods, save for fish – a food which Americans certainly do not to eat enough of (see: every article ever posted on Talking Nutrition about Omega-3’s). As a result, vitamin D intakes in the United States are largely driven by fortified foods and dietary supplements, with the main fortification target being milk and dairy foods. Alternative milk sources such as soy and almond milk are becoming increasingly popular, and yet these aren’t always fortified with vitamin D. So that begs the question – what happens to the vitamin D status of regular drinkers of alternative (that is, non-cow) milks?
Twenty years ago, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), recognizing the role of dietary supplements in health promotion and prevention of chronic diseases. The law established a new regulatory framework and mechanisms to deal with safety issues, labeling, and health claims. It provided guidance on good manufacturing practices. Unfortunately, Congress didn’t guarantee funding for enforcement of DSHEA.
Not everyone is intrigued by science. I get that. However, science (and scientists) is interesting. Three reasons to follow science blogs: 1) By nature, scientists test hypotheses. When considering questions from different perspectives, they challenge the status quo. 2) Scientists have a profound ability to distill a problem into the obvious. And 3), being a scientist can be fun. We may even have friends.
Two new reviews were published this week. Barnes and colleagues review nutrients with a role in maintaining cognitive function. Whitehead and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled studies (RCTs) using ≥ 3 g oat beta glucan daily.
Both reviews focus on nutrient intakes required to optimize health.
Experts from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a scientific opinion that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the consumption of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and contribution to normal brain development. The Panel noted the well-established role of DHA in normal brain function across all ages, including brain development in infants and children.
Based on the scientific evidence, the Panel approved the following statement:
Iodine deficiency is one of the top three micronutrient deficiencies that are targeted by the World Health Organization. Shocking statistics estimate that 18 million infants are mentally impaired each year due to frank iodine deficiency. Another report shows that iodine deficiency is relatively common even in well-nourished populations. Why aren't we doing more to solve this problem?
Humans can synthesize vitamin D when skin is exposed to strong sunlight. Obviously, babies are dependent upon their mother for vitamin D until birth (in utero). Even after birth, depending upon seasonal temperatures, a baby may be bundled in wraps and kept inside. Thus, the vitamin D status of an infant is totally dependent upon his/her mother.
Zhang and colleagues examined the nutritional requirements for vitamin D in 30 women during pregnancy.
It seems like the only health-related news these days deals with the recent cases of Ebola that have appeared in Texas. In many ways, the Ebola situation in Africa draws parallels to the malnutrition crisis observed in developing nations, where millions are affected by deficiencies of essential nutrients such as vitamin A, iron, and iodine. But if we in the Western world are hardly impacted to the same degree by either Ebola or malnutrition, why should we feel compelled to help?
Experts from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a scientific opinion that supplemental DHA and EPA from algal oil sources (Schizochytrium species) can be safely increased from 3 grams daily to 5 grams daily as there is no safety concerns for adults.
Zhao and colleagues assessed dietary adequacy and plasma vitamin E (α-tocopherol and ϒ-tocopherol) concentrations in the plasma of Irish adults. Food sources were not sufficient. Two-thirds of women were not consuming recommended amounts of vitamin E. Supplementation was important, contributing 29% of their vitamin E. People who didn’t supplement with vitamin E had much lower plasma α-tocopherol concentrations.
It is a slow day today for nutrition science, but it seems that there is an article in the mass media every day about processed foods and how they can and should be avoided. These articles can be a little confusing to me as a nutrition scientist. The confusion stems from the use of the word “processed”. Isn't there a better way to say what we mean?
What does $2.5 million dollars get a scientist in 2014? The answer is a 10 year, double-blind randomized controlled trial (RCT) to determine whether prenatal supplementation with omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) benefits children’s intelligence and school readiness.
This is important research. Higher levels of DHA in the blood of children have been correlated with better sleep and improved reading and behavior in healthy but underperforming children.
Nutrition experts recommend getting essential vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet – one with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. The challenge is that we don’t always make good choices. Reasons include: time costs, sensory and physical aspects, access, and perceived value. People with lower incomes eat fewer servings of vegetables and fruits. Food preferences. Even Presidents can shun nutrient-rich foods such as Brussels sprouts, liver and tomatoes. ‘Trigger’ foods can subvert choices. Consequently, millions of Americans are deficient in vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E, folate, or iron.
Did you read that a genetic study casts doubt that vitamin D prevents the development of type 2 diabetes? Well, don’t believe everything you read. The authors are quoted, “Our findings suggest that interventions to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by increasing concentrations of vitamin D are not currently justified.” That is one opinion. Here is a different perspective.
Ye and colleagues combined data from 22 observational studies with almost 100,000 participants to examine genetic markers, serum 25(OH)D3 concentrations and risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Every day we are confronted with risks: crossing streets, not wearing seatbelts, walking under upright ladders, failing to lockout equipment, not wearing safety glasses or hearing protection, running across wet floors, living in tornado zones, wearing bicycle helmets, etc. Some activities are more hazardous than others. The challenge is assessing the magnitude of the risk.
For the past two days, I participated on a Food Advisory Committee convened by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).