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TalkingNutrition

Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'April 2015'

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    Worried About Processed Foods? Read This

    Problem: Health advisors think processed foods lack nutrition. Consequence: People feel guilty about purchasing and enjoying nutrient-rich foods. Reality: Commercial processing can improve the nutritional content of foods by better nutrient preservation (flash frozen vegetables) and fortification (vitamin D addition to dairy products, iodization of salt, folate fortification of flour). Evidence: CDC nutritional status survey.

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    What Happens When False Beliefs Drive Consumer Behavior?

    When looking for topics to write about for Talking Nutrition, I first look at what diet and nutrition stories are in the news. A Google News search for “diet” shows a series of headlines which accomplish little in the quest to improve public understanding of nutrition. It seems sometimes that the public understanding of nutrition is based upon the media’s interpretation of nutrition news, which is not always the most accurate. The result is shifts in dietary trends and alterations to food products driven not by science, but by widespread public misconception. Is this a good thing?

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    Mars and Venus and Vitamin D Deficiency

    While many a bestseller has covered the topic of psychological differences between the sexes, women and men also differ in terms of their nutritional needs.  Part of this difference stems from the generally larger body size and higher muscle mass of men. This is reflected in the Dietary Reference Intakes for which there is a higher recommendation for men compared to women. For example, men have greater needs for fats, protein, water, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, K, magnesium and zinc. On the other hand, women need more iron, and during certain life phases such as pregnancy and breastfeeding, their nutrient needs increase beyond that of men (see Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements). 

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    WHO Issues Folate Recommendations to Prevent Neural Tube Defects

    The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new recommendations on the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs). With approximately 300,000 newborns being born annually with NTDs, it is important that women who may become pregnant consume recommended amounts (400 µg folic acid daily).

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    Prostate Cancer and Nutrition

    Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. It represents 13% of all new cancer cases in the US and >25,000 men will die from it this year. Risk factors for prostate cancer are: age, family history (genetics), and race.

    Researchers search to determine if nutrition affects prostate cancer risk. A systematic review of 12 self-reported dietary intake and 9 biomarker studies finds no evidence of an association between prostate cancer risk and omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs).

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    A Tale of Alzheimer's Disease, Nutrition, and Politics

    According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, roughly 5.1 million Americans suffer with Alzheimer's disease. The resulting cost of care for patients with dementia including Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to be between $157 and $215 billion dollars in the United States alone. In the New York Times yesterday, an op-ed by Newt Gingrich called for doubling the NIH budget in order to stimulate research programs around the prevention and treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  Any research news about nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease recently?

     

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    Earth Day, Vitamin D, Delirium, and Death: All in One Blog!

    Yesterday was a day of colossal journalism failure leading to miscommunication about multivitamins and cancer. It has been confirmed by the University of Colorado Cancer Centre that Dr. Byers didn’t present new research findings in Philadelphia on Monday. The entire news cycle linking multivitamin/mineral supplements with cancer risk seems to have been stimulated by a university press release alluding to a commentary published in 2012. For a scientific perspective, see “Journalism Fails when Stories are not Adequately Verified”.

    Extreme headlines attract readers. So here goes: Nutrition Shortfalls may be Harmful! 

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    Journalism Fails when Stories are not Adequately Verified

    Journalism, get your act together! Once again, print and televised media (Sunday Express, The Guardian, Daily Mail, CBS News) are disseminating a story which raises many questions. Only a few weeks since the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism investigation led Rolling Stone to apologize for failing to meet journalistic standards. What are today’s sordid details?

    The American Association for Cancer Research is holding its annual meeting in Philadelphia, Apr 18-22. Dr Tim  Byers, University of Colorado Cancer Centre is reported to have presented evidence

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    Insuring Against Worst Case Scenarios with Vitamin D

    With the exception of elective surgery, most hospital admission are unexpected. Given the unexpected nature of emergencies, it would seem that one cannot really prepare. New evidence suggests that maintaining adequate circulating vitamin D concentrations may be an excellent form of insurance to modify the outcome of an emergency trip to the hospital.

    Serum 25(OH)D concentrations of 4,344 adults hospitalized between 1993 and 2011 were analyzed with respect to 30d all-cause mortality. Patients with 25(OH)D concentrations <25 nmol/L had a ~2-fold greater risk of dying than those <50 nmol/L

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    Vitamin D Supplementation and Health

    A colleague of mine, Dr Jane Doe, recently expressed an opinion that vitamin D supplementation is ineffective in raising serum 25(OH)D3 concentrations. Because I respect Jane, her apparent dismissal of the evidence stymied me.

    Dear Jane, I hope you saw the paper by Curiel-Lewandrowski and colleagues. High-dose vitamin D supplementation 

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    Feeding the Brain Requires more than One Nutrient

    Omega-3 fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are required for brain development and function. ScienceDaily summarized mechanistic studies in female frogs and tadpoles demonstrating dietary deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids limit brain development.

    In a retrospective analysis of 168 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment who underwent cranial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), brain atrophy rates were highest in those with lower plasma omega-3, DHA and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) concentrations

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    Do All Vitamin Supplements Have the Same Quality?

    A question that recently came up on our Twitter feed was about whether vitamin supplements differ by quality*. Does it matter which brand of dietary supplement that people choose? Ideally, the actual contents of dietary supplements would match the label information – no more and no less, with no added surprises in the mix. The degree to which this occurs depends on a surprising number of different factors.

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    Does Your Brain have the Vitamin E it Needs?

    Even though the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) identified vitamin E as a shortfall nutrient, very little attention has been devoted to vitamin E in recent years. The truth of the matter is that most randomized controlled trials with vitamin E were conducted in patients with chronic diseases, the generalizability of finding to healthy adults is uncertain, and the vitamin E status (serum α-tocopherol) of the volunteers is unknown.

    Antioxidants, like vitamin E, vitamin C lutein and zeaxanthin, help maintain the integrity of cells against free radicals.

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acid Headlines are Smelling Fishy

    It makes me want to cry out with frustration when I read headlines that the there is something fishy about omega-3 supplements or that fish oil supplements do not prevent heart disease. Let me share a different perspective on the value of omega-3 supplements.

    The biggest myth is that encouraging supplement use will undermine healthy food choices and contributes to unhealthy dietary behaviors. This is incorrect. The record shows that people who use dietary supplements are more likely to have better dietary patterns, to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and follow healthier lifestyles.

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    Are You Learning Nutrition as a Consumer, Scientist or Policy Maker?

    Food is part of daily life. TalkingNutrition regularly summarizes newly published nutrition studies. Because people are interested in nutrition and health, peer-reviewed nutrition-related articles are often reported by the media. Is media coverage of nutrition research relevant to everyone – consumers, researchers and policy makers? Let’s discuss an example.

    Marchetta and colleagues examine the relationship between natural food folate intake and blood folate concentrations.

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    Iodine Deficiency, Goiter and Nutritional Status Assessment

    Last week at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, DSM scientists reported ~ 25% of American adolescents and adults were clinically deficient in at least one micronutrient. For more details read Hidden Hunger: Micronutrient Deficiencies are prevalent among US adolescents and Think Nutrient Deficiencies are History in the US? Think Again.

    Iodine was the nutrient most often found to be deficient. Why is that?

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    Buyer Beware: Breast May Be Best, But Not What You Get

    There are many reasons why breast milk is the recommended for infants during the first months of life.  This is for various reasons, including an immunological benefit for the infant, a taste profile that enhances food acceptance later in life, and a virtually non-existent chance of microbial contamination. But for women who are unable to produce enough breast milk, is it a good idea to purchase human milk?

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    Pining for Vitamin D and Happiness

    In the United States, patients make 1 billion visits to physicians’ offices annually. If the US Census counter is right, that equates to 3 office visits per American. The estimated cost of these visits is $600 billion annually.

    Depression is an important contributor to health care utilization and costs. Health care costs are 2.6 times higher for patients with depression (vs those without).

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    Healthy Pregnancies and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Pregnant? Anticipating the birth of a beautiful new baby? Boy or girl, it does not matter, because both need omega-3 fatty acids for the normal development of the brain and eye. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is concentrated in the brain and the eye. Because much of the brain and visual systems develop in the last trimester of pregnancy, maternal DHA intake is especially important during this time.

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    Fatty Fish and Fish Oils are a Safe Supply of Omega-3s

    A new study suggests that raised levels of a particular fatty acid in the blood may be detrimental to patients undergoing cancer therapy. The Daily Mail suggests cancer patients should be concerned about eating herring, mackerel and omega-3 supplements when undergoing chemotherapy.

    First, the recommendation is based on data obtained in mice (Roodhart et al, 2011; Daenen et al, 2015) implanted with cancer cells, orally gavaged (force-fed) with fish oils, and treated with chemotherapeutic agents. While scientifically interesting, these results are not applicable to humans. 

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    Using Nutritional Markers to Personalize Health and Guide Policy

    The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) identified a healthy diet as one higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.” The challenge is that the terms higher, moderate, and lower are relative. Should I buy this bar or that one? Should I buy this meal or that one? Which is the better food choice?

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    Fish and Algal Omega-3 Oils are Important for Health

    Omega-3 fatty acids are important for cardiovascular, immune, eye, and brain function. Most people do not consume recommended amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from their diet. How do you know if your omega-3 intake is sufficient? The omega-3 index, the percentage of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in red blood cells, is the best longterm measure of omega-3 status.

    Some of you may have read news articles that fish oil claims are not supported by research. There are quotes that the ‘era of fish oil as a medication’ should be considered over now. 

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