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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'March 2012'


    Micronutrients Form Part of Malnutrition Relief For Sahel

    The World Food Programme (WFP) published an article recently about the malnutrition crisis in the Sahel region in Africa. This zone is transitional between the Sahara desert and the Sudanian Savannas, stretching between the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Areas in Maruitania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Cameroon are most affected by the Sahel drought, according to WFP/FAO statistics. Poor or uneven rainfall, and the short space of time since the previous drought in 2010 have made these populations vulnerable to food shortages.

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    Upgrade Your Vision by Eating Well

    While on business at Laguna Beach, CA, the sun was shining and ships could be seen heading out to sea on the horizon – if the eyes had the ability to filter out blue light and sufficient antioxidants to recover from the brightness. Two new peer-reviewed publications are relevant to eye health. Muthenna and colleagues report that the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE) plays a role in the loss of visual acuity. Since cataract formation is accelerated in hyperglycemic conditions, the role of compounds found in traditional food sources

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    The Circle of Life, and Vitamin D Recommendations

    Vitamin D is critically important for children’s bone development. This vitamin differs from others in that it is a hormone, and can be produced by the skin in sunlight as well as being obtained from food. Even so, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from either, because there are few good dietary sources and skin production is reduced or non-existent in winter, through sunscreen and clothing, indoors, in polluted or cloudy environments, and by skin pigmentation. The obese are also at a higher risk of deficiency. Abrams provides a review of vitamin D recommendations in children since the vitamin was discovered as a cure for rickets almost one hundred years ago.

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    Are Kids’ Vitamin A Intakes Adequate? Diverse Surveys Compared

    Two recent publications from the journal Public Health Nutrition looked at vitamin A intakes in children. The first study investigated the relationship between vitamin A intakes and how well they correlate with circulating levels of vitamin A levels in preschoolers in the context of infection in Zambia. The authors Hotz et al. report on the results of a cross-sectional cluster-designed survey in a rural population. The survey was conducted as preparation for an intervention using orange maize in Zambia. Young children are at risk of vitamin A deficiency due to their high rate of growth.

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    Dietary DHA in Vision: Maintaining Retinal Function

    The retina is located at the back of the eye and photoreceptor cells that make up part of the retina responsible for converting light to electrical impulses that are sent to the brain. The retina is critical for normal vision, which is why diseases affecting the retina, or macula lutea in the retina, such as retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, and Stargardt disease, result in blindness. The debilitating nature of the loss of vision means that any means to prevent or reduce the severity of these conditions is beneficial. A recent publication from Dornstauder and colleagues at the University of Alberta, Canada, looked at how docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can aid in the health of the retina.

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    Evaluating Risk-Benefit Equations, in Nutrition, in 2012

    In 1998, the Institute of Medicine applied a risk assessment model to develop tolerable upper intake levels (UL) for nutrients. The UL is the daily intake level which poses no risk of adverse effects in almost all of the population. For folic acid, the UL was set at 1000ug per day. It was based on concerns that excess folic acid could exacerbate problems in individuals with inadequate vitamin B12 intakes, not toxicity. On June 12-13, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the Department of Health and Human Services is hosting an ‘Excess Folic Acid Workshop’ in Washington DC. In conjunction with the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), the NTP hopes to

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    Vitamin E: The Forgotten Nutrient

    Vitamin E is a nutrient with an RDA (15 mg/day) for adults over 20y. According to What We Eat in America, NHANES 2007-2008 (Table 1, page 4), the average daily intake of males and females over 20y of age is only 8.3 and 6.9 mg, 55% and 45% of the RDA, respectively. Since vitamin E dietary supplements could fill this gap, it is notable that USDA reports nutrient intakes from foods and supplements by gender and age, race/ethnicity, income ($), and income (% poverty threshold) for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid, folate,

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    if we eat ‘natural’ products, it is better? Right?

    When it comes to things we put in our mouth – like food, beverages, dietary supplements, the word ‘natural’ brings images of simplicity, rows of vegetables in a small garden next to a babbling brook, ruminants chewing their cud under a tree, fresh fruit on a counter. If only it were that simple. Scientists learned how to make nature-identical synthetic compounds and companies levered economies of scale to increase production and reduce cost. At some periods in history, synthetic compounds were favored because of their purity. The reality is, however, most of the vitamins we consume are not naturally found in the foods we eat.

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    IOM Releases Workshop Summary on Nutrition & Healthy Aging

    Baby Boomers represent a considerable proportion of many populations. Because the population of Americans over 65 years of age is expected to grow by almost 38% between 2010 and 2020 (from 40 to 55 million), the Institute of Medicine held a workshop on October 5-11, 2011. They published the Workshop Summary: Nutrition and Healthy Aging in the Community today. It is daunting. Food insecurity rates for persons >50 years increased 28 to 44% from 2007 to 2009.

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    Feeding Yourself (and Others) with Limited Resources

    According to data from the Gates Foundation, Americans spend less on food than any other people in any other country (6% of income). People in Europe spend 10% of their income on food. In the US, food expenditures, as a share of disposable personal income, has fallen from approximately 25% in 1929. During the 2007-2009 recession, inflation-adjusted food expenditures by US households fell 5%, the largest decrease in 25 years. People economized by purchasing groceries rather than eating at restaurants. Because socioeconomic factors may influence access to nutrient-dense foods, Appelhans and colleagues recruited

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    Time to Recognize the Cost of Malnutrition

    Yesterday, the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) posted an article entitled “Time to recognize malnutrition in Europe”. They wrote, “In Europe, an estimated 33 million people are at risk of malnutrition. Studies show that up to one third of patients in hospital and nursing homes are at risk of undernutrition, as are 10% of individuals over the age of 65 in the European Union (EU).” Malnutrition is not only detrimental to individual health, it is costly to societies. Rice and Normand estimated the cost of caring for patients

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    Is Your Intake of DHA and EPA (Omega-3 fatty acids) Adequate?

    Elevated plasma homocysteine (Hcy) levels (hyperhomocysteinemia) are considered to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Genetic (polymorphisms) and environmental (diet) factors affect homocysteine levels. Genetic variations in homocysteine metabolism are associated with HHcy. We have discussed the methylenetetrahydrolate reductase polymorphism (MTHFR 677C >T) before. Huang and colleagues studied the interaction between omega-3 dietary fatty acids and

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    Nutrition and Human Behavior: Addressing Malnutrition Today

    Can the blog of a vitamin manufacturer be trusted to provide an honest perspective on nutrition? Some will say no, maybe even more than ‘some’. That is an opinion. But as a global science-based company, a leading manufacturer of vitamins, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutraceuticals, we help food, beverage, supplement, and pharmaceutical companies deliver innovative solutions to nourish people. Ultimately, having an adequate nutrient intake is essential for health.

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    Do You Get Enough Vitamin D?

    Using a reductionist approach and restrictive diets, nutritionists discovered vitamins 100 hundred years ago. Once discovered, vitamins were added back to purified diets, fed to animals (usually) to resolve deficiencies. These experiments proved that vitamin C deficiency caused scurvy, vitamin A deficiency led to blindness, folate deficiency caused neural tube defects in newborns, etc. According to Dr George McKendall, director of coronary care at Rhode Island Hospital, “there is an observed seasonal pattern with more heart attacks observed in the winter and spring compared to summer and fall months.” University of Alabama Associate Professor Martin Young says that springing ahead to daylight savings time is associated with a 10% increase risk in having a heart attack. Could this be related to nutrition? To vitamin D adequacy?

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    Consumers and their Understanding of Health Claims

    Regulators advocate for health claims to help consumers understand the scientific evidence associating health benefits of eating a diet containing certain foods. In the US, the FDA publishes a list of approved health claims which meet government standards for significant scientific agreement. These are called ‘unqualified’ health claims. Then there are also ‘qualified’ health claims. The European Food Safety Authority publishes ‘general function’ Article 13 health claims, ‘new function’ Article 13.5 health claims, and Article 14 claims on disease risk reduction and child development or health. So many terms. So many nuances. The question is: consumers understand the differences in scientific substantiation between structure-function claims, health claims, and disease reduction claims

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    Food and Technology Innovators! Help us with Vitamin D Solutions!

    To the many attendees at Nutracon and Engredea in Anaheim CA, please read this column out in the sun. And the same goes for everyone else. If you are in a cloudy and/or cold part of the world, then you need to choose foods rich in vitamin D. Unfortunately, there aren’t many naturally rich choices. You need to select vitamin D fortified foods. At present, regulations limit the number of foods which can be fortified, and the amount of vitamin D added per serving. So, a vitamin D supplement may be the answer. Answer for what? Muscogiuri and colleagues reviewed the scientific evidence on vitamin D status and cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The most compelling data associated low vitamin D status with risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

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    Folate Study: Empowering Women to do the Right Thing

    Kiefte-de Jong and colleagues report that high folate and vitamin B12 levels during pregnancy are associated with increased risk of atopic dermatitis, but not wheezing or shortness of breath, in the offspring. The study was based on a population-based prospective cohort following 8,742 pregnant women through delivery until the child was 48 mo old. The women self-reported dietary supplement use. Approximately 15% reported using a multivitamin supplement. Blood samples were collected during the first trimester of pregnancy to assess folate and B12 status. Most of the mothers responded positively when asked if their child had ‘problems with a wheezing chest’ (75%), ‘shortness of breath’ (81%) and ‘an itchy rash that came and went during the past year’ – referring to atopic dermatitis (79%). Analysis of the MTHFR C677T polymorphism was restricted to 4,955 Western mothers. The authors did not find an effect of dietary supplementation during pregnancy.

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    Adolescent Girls Need Vitamin D for Strong Bones

    Building and maintaining strong bones requires good nutrition, including calcium and vitamin D. Since foods naturally rich in vitamin D have not been readily available, Canada and the US have allowed the fortification of some foods. In an excellent review, Calvo and colleagues report that Canada has mandatory fortification of some foods, including milk and margarine. In the US, many varieties of foods are eligible to be fortified but it is not mandatory. The law only requires the level of vitamin D to be present IF the food is fortified. Despite consumer interest in natural products, fluid milk is still an important dietary source of vitamin D. In a new study, Sonneville and colleagues report on a prospective cohort study to determine if calcium, vitamin D, and/or dairy intakes were associated with risk of stress fractures

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    Alpha-Tocopherol and Osteoporosis: The Devil in the Details

    A recent study that has attracted considerable attention is written by a Japanese group lead by Fujita, published in Nature Medicine. They describe a series of experiments performed in mice and in cell-based assays that look at the role of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) in osteoclast activity. The bone remodeling process occurs continuously and involves a balance between bone-building cells called osteoblasts, and bone-absorbing cells called osteoclasts. This research is relevant because when the activity of osteoclasts outpaces osteoblasts, bone loss occurs. In the abstract, the researchers state “wild-type mice or rats fed an alpha-tocopherol–supplemented diet, which contains a comparable amount of alpha-tocopherol to supplements consumed by many people, lost bone mass.”

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    What is Optimal Vitamin A Status?

    Agasari and colleagues collected data from almost 70,000 men and women, 50 to 76y, participating in the VITAmins and Lifestyle (VITAL) study in Washington state. Over 5.8y, 566 people were identified with melanoma. Dietary and supplemental vitamin A and carotenoid intake was examined. After adjusting for melanoma risk factors, individual supplemental vitamin A use (retinol) was associated with a 40% reduced risk of melanoma. High-dose supplemental vitamin A (>1,200 ug per day) was associated with a 26% reduced melanoma risk vs non-users.

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    Critical Nutrient Density: A Concept Whose Time has Arrived

    People accept that micronutrients are essential, especially during the first 1000 days of life. The contentious issues are economic (efficacy of nutrition policy) and philosophy (source of nutrients). Two new papers published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition bring new insights. Roberfroid and colleagues assessed the effect of UNICEF/WHO multiple micronutrient (MM) supplementation (vs iron and folic acid alone) during pregnancy and lactation on survival, growth and morbidity of 1,276 infants. The total follow-up was 30,459 infant-months with 15,262 infant-months during the first year of life. Children whose mothers received MM had significantly greater length-for-age, weight-for-age, higher z scores, greater thoracic circumference, larger head circumference-for-age and a 27% reduction in rate of stunting during the first year of life.

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