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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'September 2011'


    Got aches and pains? Try vitamin D

    Low vitamin D levels have been linked with many health conditions, and one of those is pain. A recent cross-sectional survey analyzed by Vasant Hirani looked closely at the relationship between vitamin D levels in older adults in the UK and levels of chronic pain. Chronic pain is a condition that has a number of causes but it is characterized by pain that lasts six months or longer. Causes of pain may be headaches, muscular and joint pain, backaches and pain from injury, and it may arise by itself or after trauma to an area of the body. The link with vitamin D levels is previous work that shows that vitamin D receptors are found in muscles, and poor vitamin D status is associated with reduced muscle strength and function, in a review by Ceglia.

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    Are you Getting Required Nutrients from Foods you Eat?

    Good nutrition is hard to beat. That is what the research shows. A new study of 2533 participants in the French SU.VI.MAX 2 (Supplementation with Antioxidant Vitamins and Minerals 2) study reports people who were eating more fruits and vegetables, fruit alone, vitamin C, and vitamin E at the start of the study had better verbal memory scores, even when measured 13 years later. However, measures of mental processing speed and cognitive flexibility were lower in people with higher vegetable intakes. How could this be? Peneau and associates speculate, “A potential explanation for this inverse association pertains to pesticide content in vegetables because exposure to toxins is known to increase cognitive impairment risk.” They also suggest that the negative effect of vegetables might exist because antioxidants are less well preserved in vegetables which are often cooked whereas fruit are not. It is hard to say. Epidemiology measures associations rather than cause and effect.

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    NGOs Lead Fight Against Poverty, Hidden Hunger & Malnutrition

    Just as the UN General Assembly wraps up, a new paper in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition is a reminder of the cost of malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of life. Tofail and colleagues report that mental and psychomotor developments are significantly delayed in low-birth weight infants versus their normal-birth weight peers. Intauterine growth retardation persisted, despite fish or soy oil supplementation during pregnancy. This probably explains the differences in infant behavior at 10 months. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death globally, killing more people each year than all other causes combined, according to WHO statistics published this month by Sight and Life.

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    Vitamin B12, Brain Size, and Thinking Skills

    Was yesterdays’ blog about B vitamins and memory? It seems like a déjà vu moment… but, indeed, additional studies linking B12 with brain function are published today. In a paper published in Neurology, Tangney and colleagues report on 121 adults >65 years old living in Chicago. Individuals with low blood vitamin B12 levels had a greater risk of brain shrinkage. Indicators of vitamin B12 deficiency were associated with lower cognitive test scores. Our bodies cannot store vitamin B12. As people age, plasma vitamin B12 concentrations decrease. Older people have a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

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    Worried about your Memory? Or Someone Else’s?

    According to the CDC, 5 million Americans may suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Another half million in the UK where the Alzheimer’s Society has created a map showing prevalence and diagnosis rates. Alzheimer’s disease can strike early. Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach, was diagnosed at 59 years of age. One of the clinical manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease can be weight loss. Pivi and associates, published in Nutrition Journal today, results from a 6 month study comparing nutrition education vs oral nutritional supplementation on nutritional status in 90 individuals with Alzheimer’s. Nutritional supplementation was more effective than nutrition education

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    Trying to Keep Your Heart and Body Healthy?

    A meta-analysis of 7 prospective studies involving 2682 cases and 221,009 non-cases, examined the relationship between folate intake and CHD risk. The study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases by Wang and colleagues found the highest folate intake reduced risk of CHD by 31% (vs lowest). An increase in folate intake of 200 ug/day was associated with a 12% risk in developing CHD. Their dose-response analysis indicated that 5 mmol/L increments in blood folate levels were associated with an 8% decreased risk in developing CHD. Adequate intakes of folate during the first trimester of pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

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    Carotenoids more than Natural Colors: Needed for Lung and Eye Health

    Carotenoid-rich foods are vibrant with color such as fruits and vegetables. Food manufacturers often add them as natural colors to provide warm yellow, orange and red colors to foods and beverages. New research reinforces the importance of beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene, especially for growing children. A study published by Thyagarajan and colleagues in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that the consumption of carotenoid-rich foods by young children is associated with higher serum carotenoid concentrations and better lung function, even after 15 years. Reduced lung function is associated with cardiovascular disease and mortality.

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    Childhood Micronutrient Deficiencies last a Lifetime

    State Hilary Clinton spoke at the High-Level Meeting on Nutrition. She said, “And we are reminded not only of the importance of delivering food, but delivering nutrient-rich food while also making the long-term investments in food security”. Secretary Clinton’s words, “we believe fervently that improving nutrition for pregnant women and children under two is one of the smartest investments we or anyone can make” are underlined by a study published yesterday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin A, iron, vitamin B12, and folate deficiencies have been identified globally but many factors affect malnutrition. Pasricha and colleagues conducted

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    Nutrition for Children During the 1st 1000 Days, and Beyond

    More than 36 million people die each year from non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The number of NCDs is projected to increase 17% in the next 10 years and as much as 27% in regions such as Africa. More than 30% of health care costs are related to NCDs. Hoping to slow this loss, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are joining international leaders to discuss recent progress in Scaling up Nutrition (SUN), the global movement to combat undernutrition. The SUN movement, together with the 1,000 Days partnership is seeking to address the crisis of maternal and child undernutrition with the first 1,000 days. Today, Secretary Ban Ki-moon and Secretary Clinton will host a High Level meeting where select executives will share

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    UK Agency Releases Guidance to Remove Artificial Food Colors

    According to the Food Standards Agency press release, manufacturers and retailers are removing 6 artificial food colors from their products. The UK Agency is encouraging others to find color alternatives. Their ‘Guidelines on approaches to the replacement of Tartrazine, Allura Red, Ponceau 4R, Quinoline Yellow, Sunset Yellow and Carmoisine in food and beverages’ contains a list of alternatives for the yellow, orange and red colors known as the ‘Southampton 6’.

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    More than a Historical Day in Nutrition

    Google Doodle brings attention to vitamin C because today is the 118th birthday of the discoverer of vitamin C. Michael Cavna at The Washington Post summarizes the accomplishments of Dr Albert Szent-Gyorgy. Here is some additional history. Although Hippocrates described the symptoms of scurvy, it was 1747 when British naval physician, James Lind, prescribed oranges and lemons to cure scurvy. Scurvy was experimentally induced in guinea pigs by Hoist and Frolich in 1907. Chick and Hume developed a bioassay to determine

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    Help the WHO Fight NCDs by Embracing Fortication Programs

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is inviting world leaders to a summit in New York City next week to build international commitment to reducing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. This is an important issue because more than 36 million die annually from NCDs. NCDs reduce national income and force people into poverty. Hopefully, these leaders have read ‘Micronutrient supplementation improves physical performance measures in Asian Indian school-age children’.

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    Just Cannot Say Enough about Importance of B Vitamins

    Newswires are humming with new information on B vitamins. The British Journal of Nutrition released a new study by Zhang and colleagues. They studied B vitamin intake and risk of breast cancer in a case-control study in women hospitalized in Guangdong, China. Women with the highest vs lowest intake of dietary folate had a 70% lower risk of breast cancer. It was 50% lower for women with the highest vitamin B 6 intake. The relationship held regardless of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) status. In the UK, The Telegraph correspondent, Nick Collins, reported from the British Science Festival that individuals with mild cognitive impairment who supplemented with vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid were 70% more likely to give a correct answer

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    New Dietary Ingredients (NDI) Notification Update, Wednesday Sept 14

    The FDA issued draft guidance on July 5th in the Federal Register on new dietary ingredient (NDI) notifications for dietary supplements. The proposed regulation stipulates that a manufacturer or distributor must share information demonstrating the safety of a NDI at least 75 days before the dietary supplement containing that NDI is introduced to the market or shipped across state boundaries. The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) submitted comments that the FDA had “grossly underestimated the burden of the New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) notification process on the dietary supplement industry in terms of time resource and capital cost”.

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    Don’t Lump all Omega-3 Fatty Acids Together

    Headlines suggest that choosing foods or supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids may not benefit your heart. Don’t believe everything you read in a headline. Science cannot be condensed to 10 words or less. Omega-3 fatty acids describe a class of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). The other class of PUFA is omega-6 fatty acids with the predominant being alpha-linoleic acid (LA). Omega-3 fatty acids are important dietary components because of their unique structure, which cannot be synthesized in our bodies. However our body can lengthen

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    Vitamin E Shouldn’t be a Forgotten Micronutrient

    Not that long ago everyone seemed to be taking a vitamin E supplement. That trend changed after 2005 with the publication of one epidemiological review. It shouldn’t have. The fact is that research published this month in the Journal of Nutrition finds almost 100% of Americans are not consuming the recommended amount of vitamin E. Since there aren’t many foods fortified with vitamin E, it is only people using a vitamin E supplement who are likely to meet their vitamin E dietary reference intake (DRI).

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    To exercise or not to exercise? The Answer Involves Antioxidants

    Growing older is better than the alternative. But quality of life is also important. Changes in diet and exercise can reduce inflammation to slow aging. However, exercise also generates reactive oxygen species and this can induce inflammation. A paper published by Dunn-Lewis and colleagues in the Nutrition Journal, using a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) with a placebo control, studied the effect of multi-nutrient supplementation on markersof inflammation in middle-aged men and women. The supplement included B vitamins (B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid)

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    Widespread Vitamin B12 Deficiency Found in Canadians: Five Percent Affected

    Good nutrition is all about getting the right mix of nutrients. Every diet needs to include the full range of macro- and micro-nutrients to maintain good health. Recently, MacFarlane, Greene-Finestone and Shi reported the results of a nationally-representative survey conducted in Canada, which looked at vitamin B12 levels in the context of folate fortification. Vitamin B12 and folate are involved in homocysteine metabolism, together with vitamin B6. These vitamins are needed for proper energy production in cells, and they also are required for the generation of the amino acid cysteine from methionine (vitamin B6), and the regeneration of methionine from homocysteine (folate and vitamin B12). All three are needed for the proper functioning of this essential biochemical cycle. While vitamin B6 deficiency is uncommon, and folate deficiency has been reduced after recent fortification efforts, vitamin B12 levels may be a cause for concern.

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    Must Read Nutrition Label to Solve Omega-3 Needs Safely

    Do you ever think you should have gone to law school when reading nutrition labels? It isn’t easy to understand the fine print. Take omega-3 (or n-3) fatty acids as an example. While it is true that animals can synthesize long-chain fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA), from the short-chain precursor alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), humans are not very good at it. We simply do not elongate and desaturate ALA to EPA and then DHA very efficiently. Since DHA is needed for vision and brain function, it is important to get these nutrients but it isn’t as simple as choosing an omega-3 rich food or supplement. Unfortunately, you have to read the label in detail, looking specifically for DHA and EPA.

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    Right Tools Needed for Nutrition Policy and Health of Nations

    Economic growth reflects government income, often from taxes, and spending. Health costs contribute significantly to government spending, typically 8-16% of national GDP. A commentary in Lancet reflects on the role of science and consensus in defining health policy. Mori and colleagues write, ‘an evidence-based approach does not solve all problems, nor does it necessarily always provide the right answer. It is limited by the availability of evidence, which is shaped by funding opportunities, ease of research, and interpretation of uncertainty.’ Profound words. The authors identify 2 required elements to develop sound policies:

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    Nutrition in a Pill is Better Advice than Treating Consequences

    Everyone realizes the importance of obtaining essential micronutrients for health but dietary supplementation is still contentious. The gold standard of evidence, randomized, controlled trials (RCT), can support, negate, or be inconclusive regarding supplementation. Nutrition enthusiasts use the negative reports to discourage supplement use. ‘Nutrition police’ demonize people who prefer processed foods or supplements to obtain vitamins. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) was conducted to determine the effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on women’s health. It was a RCT, comparing 1 gram calcium and 400 IU vitamin daily vs placebo for 7 years in over 36,000 apparently healthy, postmenopausal women.

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