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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'January 2015'


    Getting Insight into Factors Limiting Healthy Dietary Choices

    What influences our meal choices? Researchers from the Netherlands attempted to answer this question.  They hypothesized that socioeconomic status might be involved.

    Kamphuis and colleagues conducted face-to-face interviews among 399 adults (mean age 63y) participating in the Health and Living Conditions in Eindhoven and surrounding cities (GLOBE) cohort study. Five meal attributes (taste, healthiness, preparation time, travel time to shops, and price) were assessed with 3 or 4 levels for each attribute. 

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    Fortification Provides Vitamins and Minerals Essential for Health

    Today’s blog, based on data from Sweden, highlights the benefits of consuming fortified foods. Sweden has a history of mandatory iron fortification of white flour since 1944. In 1995, this practice was discontinued.

    Sjoberg and Hulthen examined the impact of changes in fortification policy on iron intake and serum ferritin stores in 15-16y old adolescents. After the withdrawal of iron fortification in 1995,

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    Friends and Family Influence Your Health: For Better or Worse

    Who doesn’t want to be healthy? In an effort to be healthier, we often purchase gym memberships, buy exercise equipment and join weight loss programs. Many will use dietary supplements to ensure nutrient adequacy. However it is hard to change habits, especially if family and friends don’t share similar goals.

    Using prospective data from adult (≥ 50y) married and cohabiting couples (n = 3,722), Jackson and colleagues examined the influence of partner’s behavior on making positive health behavior changes. 

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    Blindness, Vitamin A, and Policy Recommendations

    In setting public policy to control vitamin deficiency, no interventions should be necessary if normal vitamin status is sustained from a diversified diet”.  Wise words from West and colleagues in their commentary on vitamin A policies. We are what we eat.

    Unfortunately, many people in many countries for many reasons do not eat diversified diets.  Failure to consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals occur in the stunted and the overweight

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    Screening for Vitamin D Status: What Do Experts Think?

    Last month, we had posted an article about the release of the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation on screening for vitamin D deficiency, which effectively said that they were neither for or against screening, and that more evidence was needed before making a decision. However, we were of the opinion that given the widespread prevalence of low vitamin D intake and the increasing prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, screening was a good idea. What do the experts think?

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    Child Development More Sensitive to Maternal Intake of DHA than Mercury Found in Fish

    Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids and are low in saturated fat. However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin to the brain and nervous system. Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advise women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, are nursing and their young children to avoid certain types of fish (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish).

    Strain and colleagues investigated the relationship between maternal mercury exposure and child development in 1,265 mother-child pairs from a high fish-eating population. 

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    Remember what you ate yesterday? Me neither.

    Memory is a tricky thing.

    Tell me, what did you eat yesterday? What about the day before? What about 3 months ago – perhaps on October 20th? (well, ok maybe that’s cheating since it was my birthday – so for me the answer is cake and a lot of it.) In nutrition, we rely on the ability of our memories to accurately recall what we ate yesterday (as in a 24 hour recall), which is problematic at best. Now imagine trying to get an accurate picture of what you’ve been eating over the last 3 to 6 months or so (as in a food frequency questionnaire)? Trusting our own recall and honesty is often problematic at best, and what can be worse is using the information we get from our own recall in an inappropriate fashion. Is there a better way?


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    Whole grains: Re-invigorate Your New Year’s Resolution

    The third week of January is marked by wavering resolve to New Year’s resolutions.  If you have already regressed to former habits you are not alone!  A study from the University of Scranton found that losing weight and staying fit and healthy are top resolutions for Americans. But, only 8% achieve their resolutions.  The good news is it is never too late to start over.  Recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans can help adopt healthy eating habits such as increasing dietary fiber from whole grains.  Dietary fiber supports heart health and new evidence suggests that whole grain consumption is also linked with mortality.  

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    Trends in Meal and Snacking: Does it Effect Nutrient Status?

    Over the last decades, the food environment has shifted in response to demographic, social and technological factors.  Family structures have changed; more women work outside the home, and technology has expanded food processing capabilities and opened a wide variety of venues for consumption (a cupcake vending machine?).  Have these shifts led to changes in eating behavior patterns and nutrient intake?  Body weight continues to creep higher but despite excessive dietary consumption, the prevalence of inadequate intake of micronutrients is greater in obese compared to normal weight adults in the U.S. Understanding trends in eating behavior and the contribution of meals and snacks to nutrient intakes could be important for identifying opportunities to improve nutrient intake.    

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    What is the Role of Nutrition in Healthy Aging?

    People in the United States are living longer than ever before; one of the great public health triumphs!  However growing older also means a greater risk for many diseases, conditions and physical limitations.   Since we (unfortunately) can’t change our age, what can be done to maintain health into old age?  There is strong evidence that modifiable lifestyle factors such as body weight, nutrition and physical activity are linked to functional outcomes in old age.  Omega-3 fatty acids in particular have been linked to healthy aging including cardiovascular function and cognition.  A recent study further suggests that omega-3s may protect from impaired mobility.  

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    Hidden Hunger, Micronutrient Inadequacies and Health Consequences in the U.S.

    More than 1/3 U.S. adults are obese; 79 million people. Almost 1 out of 5 children and adolescents (17%) is overweight. In 2008, medical costs were $1,429 higher for obese versus normal weight individuals. Many presume that adiposity is the root cause of these additional health costs. Maybe not.

    Vitamins and minerals are essential for normal growth, development and function. Fat accumulation occurs 

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    Have You Heard the News on Vitamin D and Cancer?

    The media is filled with stories linking vitamin D status with survival rates among patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Since I cannot seem to find an interesting nutrition study published in the past 48 hours, let’s discuss the news.

    Yesterday, Medscape Medical News’ Roxanne Nelson published a synopsis of a prospective vitamin D study in 1,000 patients. The study hasn’t been published but the results were reported by researchers  at the 2015 American Society of Cancer Oncology.

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    Let’s Stop Judging Food Choices and Start Measuring Status to Find Nutritious Solutions

    Fortification of foods is an important source of nutrients for many. There are two approaches to food fortification: 1) mandatory fortification of staples such as folic acid addition to flour, vitamin D addition to milk, and iodization of salt, and 2) voluntary fortification, e.g. ready-to-eat cereals, bars, and beverages.

    Dachner and associates examined changes in voluntary fortification of beverages in Canada during two periods of differing federal regulations. 

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    Diet, Multivitamin-Mineral Supplements and Childhood Development

    Children depend upon caregivers for love, housing, and clothing. Last week, I wrote about nutrition vulnerability associated with low socioeconomic status. A new study emphasizes the risks of being born without privilege.

    Drewnowski and Rehm examined whole fruit intake and 100% fruit juice intake in the United States using nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 2007-2010). Children (4-13y) consume only 1.2 servings of total fruit daily with ~40% being consumed as fruit juice. 

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    Nutrients, Not Foods, are Essential for Cellular Function

    Nutrients are essential for life. We eat foods to obtain vitamins and minerals required by our cells to function normally. Some believe that processing should be avoided despite the fact  raw kidney beans can kill you and raw unpasteurized milk increases exposure to pathogens. Others eschew certain foods based on how they were grown (organic, natural) and avoid stigmatized food groups (sugar, fat).

    All foods contain nutrients. Eicher-Miller and associates analyzed 24h dietary recall data

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    Nutrition is Affected by Socioeconomic Status – Where is the Sense of Urgency?

    Nutritional vulnerability is consistently associated with socioeconomic status (SES).  And like genetics and age, we cannot immediately change our SES. Yes, education and opportunity may change the future but for the moment, people are  constrained by their current SES.

    For those living under lower SES conditions, they carry a disproportionately heavy disease burden. Low SES individuals are more likely to experience periods when food choice and availability is limited. 

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    Wow, Measuring Nutritional Status is Insightful

    Stephen Colbert once said “Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It’s certainty.” This was the premise of a very successful satirical television program, The Colbert Report. As a person, I enjoy satire and humor. As a scientist, I am troubled when perception trumps fact.

    Two-time Nobel laureate, Linus Pauling, was a leader in many fields. He championed vitamins to maintain optimal health and prevent disease. His motto was having the ‘right molecules in the right concentration’ although antioxidant nutrition seems to not matter today. Part of the perception arises from reviews assessing treatment (placebo versus supplement) rather than nutritional status.

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    Omega-3 and Iron: Important Partners for Fighting Iron Deficiency

    Iron is an essential mineral that plays many important roles in the body including functioning as a component of hemoglobin, supporting metabolism, growth and the immune system.   In the United States and many other countries, flour and/or grains are fortified with iron and are an important source of iron in the diet.  Despite fortification, iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional disorder worldwide.  In resource poor areas iron deficiency anaemia can be aggravated by infectious diseases.  However there is also evidence that iron supplementation can increase morbidity from acute and chronic infections.  This has generated a lot of controversy and debate about how to address iron deficiency anaemia in areas with high rates of infectious disease.  

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    Can Vitamins Help Prevent Gastric Cancer?

    Vitamins are essential for health.  In the United States many individuals do not meet the daily requirements for vitamins.  According to Frei and colleagues over 93% of adults do not meet the estimated average requirements for Vitamins D and E, 50% do not meet recommended intakes for vitamin A and C and 71% do not get enough vitamin K from diet alone.  Fortified foods and dietary supplements can help bridge nutrient gaps.  The benefits of vitamin (and mineral) supplementation on disease endpoints is less clear.  A prominent review reported null associations between vitamin and mineral supplements for cardiovascular disease or cancer prevention.  However, the interpretation of the review was severely limited because data from studies of various supplements and wide ranging doses was pooled.   

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