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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'November 2012'


    University of Basel

    Today is the day! One hundred years of vitamins will be summarized in 1 day. Watch the live webcast. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the term ‘vitamin’, coined by a Polish biochemist Dr Casimir Funk, scientists are being convened by DSM Nutritional Products and its think tank, Sight and Life, in Basel Switzerland. Vitamins are essential for life. They are required at every stage of the lifecycle – pregnancy through infancy, childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood. However, as Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, Senior Vice President of Nutrition Science & Advocacy says,

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    Nutrition, Genes, and Health over the the Next 100 Years

    Tomorrow is the 100 Years of Vitamins Celebration at the University of Basel in Switzerland. Today’s TalkingNutrition uses its looking glass to peer into the future of personalized nutrition. What can one expect from ‘personal nutrition’ in the next 100 years? Traditionally, nutritionists have accepted the premise that nutrient requirements of populations can be described statistically by a normal distribution. Thus, one could define the estimated average requirement (EAR) and its variability (including that inherent in experimental design and analytical methods) to derive a dietary recommendation (RDA) that would meet the needs of 97-98% of the population. Two new scientific papers disrupt these assumptions. And they may explain the results of a third publication.

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    Who Knew? Like Vitamin D, Vitamin C Status Varies with Season

    Seasonal variations in vitamin D concentrations are expected. In winter months with colder temperatures, people simply don’t spend enough time in the sunshine with skin exposed to synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D. However, who would have guessed that a similar situation could occur with vitamin C? Paalanen and colleagues hypothesized that plasma vitamin C concentrations might be lower in the spring than in the summer/fall when fresh vegetables and fruit are abundant. They measured plasma vitamin C concentrations among 43 men and 56 women living in northwestern Russia, Pitkaranta to be exact. In the fall, plasma vitamin C levels were > 50μmol/L. However, both men and women were severely to marginally deficient in the spring, 6.8 and 19.6μmol/L for men and women, respectively. This is not unique to Russia.

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    Discover US Population Nutrient Intakes on the Micronutrient Calculator Website

    Population nutrient intake data is used to work out how well-nourished a population is. Average intakes of the macro- and micronutrients form important part of public health nutrition and these data are used along with other estimates of nutritional status to make sure that people are getting the right balance of nutrients to stay healthy. Today, a tool is being launched that provides US micronutrient intakes and recommendations in an easily accessible format via the Micronutrient Calculator website. Usual mean intakes and percentage not meeting recommendations of many micronutrients, carbohydrate, protein and dietary fiber, are provided for a wide range of age, gender, ethnicity and household income sub-groups, based on NHANES dietary intake data from 2003-2008.

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    How the Vitamins Were Discovered

    This year is the vitamins’ 100th anniversary of when the word "vitamine" was coined to describe compounds needed in small to minute quantities to sustain life. Since ancient times, humans have known that some diseases can be cured by eating certain foods. The practice of using food as medicine was fraught with difficulties, however, because the levels of vitamins in food varies and can be changed by storage and cooking. Understanding the vitamins was only achieved after decades of careful experimentation starting in the 1800s. Researchers located around the world progressively discovered, isolated, described and synthesized each of the vitamins, starting with vitamin A in 1909 and ending with the synthesis of vitamin B12 in 1972. We are still discovering all the functions and health effects of the vitamins, and trying to prevent deficiency, which unfortunately is still a significant problem globally.

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    To D3 or Not to D3, That is the Question: On the Bioequivalence of Vitamin D

    There is some controversy in the nutrition world about the effectiveness of vitamin D supplements using cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). A group of New Zealand researchers published the results of a long term study on the effectiveness of both forms of the vitamin on circulating levels in the British Journal of Nutrition (Logan, 2012). This issue has been discussed before by TalkingNutrition and you can follow some of the most recent publications on our blog. Vitamin D3 is the form that is produced in the skin after exposure to sunlight, and vitamin D2 is found in plant sources of the vitamin such as UV-light exposed mushrooms. Vitamin D3 is converted to hydroxyvitamin D3 in the body as the circulating form, which D2 is converted to hydroxyvitamin D2.

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    Critical Nutrient Density and Complementary Foods for Children 0 to 36 Months

    Everybody knows that nutrition is important. Without adequate nutrition, our abilities to be active and our cognitive capabilities become limited. We become more susceptible to infections and our risk of diseases increase. As summarized by the World Food Programme, malnutrition results from not getting enough food or the right sorts of foods. Children are at the greatest risk of malnutrition because they also need to grow. This requires protein to build muscle and fats to build membranes to surround new cells. It also requires carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy. But children can have normal weight gain and still be malnourished if they have inadequate intakes of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, and things like lutein and zeaxanthin to support eyes and brain development. In a letter to the JAMA editor, Friedrich comments on a study published earlier by Huybregts and colleagues,

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    Diet Quality: Separating the Effects of Calories from Essential Nutrients

    As America prepares to sit down and celebrate Thanksgiving, a greater emphasis may be placed on planning this savory meal than for most meals, and diet quality during the rest of the year. Hiza and colleagues assessed diet quality using data collected from >8,200 children, adolescents and adults participating in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They report that diet quality was superior for:

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    Vitamins D, C and E, Family Genetics and Diabetes Mellitus

    For those living in the northern hemisphere, days are getting shorter and shorter. Despite a shift from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time, mornings are still dark. Shorter days and colder temperatures reduce sun exposure and increase our dependence upon dietary vitamin D sources. And outside of fish and evaporated milk, most food servings provide < 1/5 of the recommended 600 IU daily. This increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency. It may also contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. In a new study published in Diabetes Care, Neyestani and colleagues report that some people may need more dietary vitamin D to maintain their serum 25(OH)D levels. 140 individuals with diabetes were randomized to consume 1,000 IU, given as 500 IU vitamin D in 2 servings of a yogurt drink (doogh), for 3 months. Participants with a specific vitamin D receptor (VDR) genotype, the Fok-qI polymorphism, had a significantly lower response

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    Is it Time to Rethink Nutrition Communications?

    Board-certified neurologist Dr David Perlmutter (@DavidPerlmutter) visited DSM Nutritional Products (@dsmnutrition) yesterday. He spoke about the role of nutrition in maintaining a healthy brain. He reviewed the importance of antioxidants to neutralize free radicals and to block inflammatory processes. The message was clear – by using nutrition to maintain healthy tissues, it may reduce the need for medical and pharmacologic interventions later. For more information on brain health, see his video “A Better Brain: Alzheimer’s Disease is Preventable”. The underlying question is: do people understand the role of nutrition with chronic disease risk? Insights can be found in a 5 year (2006-2010) retrospective of American Attitudes toward food, nutrition and health published by Hornick and colleagues. Looking at trends , the authors report:

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    Flip-flopping about Calcium Supplements and Heart Attacks? Experts Weigh In

    A nutrition-related issue that has made headlines in the past few years involved the risk of heart attacks found in randomized clinical trials using calcium supplements. This has been rather confusing, as calcium supplements seem to be recommended one week, and shunned the next. The latest study, published yesterday by Heaney and co-workers in Advances in Nutrition, provides a review of the evidence and a statement of scientific equipoise on the issue. Calcium supplements are used widely, with data from the US (CDC) and Europe (Skeie, 2009) showing that they are one of the most widely used supplements; over half of American women aged over 60 use calcium supplements, and in the top three supplement ingredients in Greece, Spain, Italy, France and the Netherlands. Calcium supplements are generally considered to be a helpful way for people with low calcium intakes to meet intake guidelines and help maintain bone mineral.

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    Personalizing Health with Nutrition (Vitamin D) and Genetics

    Most people know that calcium (86%) and vitamin D (79%) are important for bone health according to the 2012 Gallup Study of Bone Health report. We know that vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium and together they strengthen bones, prevent bone loss, and reduce the risk of fractures. Low serum 25(OH)D levels are also associated with increased risk of many chronic diseases. And the International Osteoporosis Foundation has published a vitamin D map showing rampant insufficiency globally.So it was controversial when a US Preventive Services Task Force reviewed the literature and issued a draft report concluding there was insufficient evidence to assess the benefits of calcium and vitamin D supplements on bone health. The Council for Responsible Nutrition issued a press release that the draft recommendations and the accompanying media coverage did not accurately reflect the science and would confuse consumers. For a detailed examination of the Task Force report, click here.

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    Adopting Electioneering Tactics to Eradicate Micronutrient Inadequacies

    Granularity does bring clarity. Increasing lens resolution can bring insight. This concept was driven home as I listened to pundits discuss the 2012 voting patterns by county within Florida. It becomes clear that it is an oversimplification to characterize states as a single color – red or blue. Clearly, voting patterns differ by district. One size does not fit (describe) all. The same can be said when it comes to evaluating the nutritional health of a nation. The CDC Second Nutrition Report presents information on 58 biochemical indicators which were measured in blood and urine of people who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey (NHANES) from 2003 to 2006. The prevalence of nutrient deficiencies (yes nutrient deficiencies, not inadequacies) has not changed much over the preceding 8 years at a national level:

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    How Can Pizza Influence the Activity of Your Brain?

    Pizza is not only delicious, and potentially a healthy choice if you go easy on the cheese and salami, but the phytonutrients in the oregano that gives pizza its characteristic taste might help you to think more clearly. At the International Society of Neuroscience conference held last month in New Orleans, Mohajeri and co-workers presented the results of a clinical trial showing the effects of oregano extract on brain wave activity (presentation abstract 227.08).

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    How are Antioxidant Vitamins Linked with Exercise and Leg Pain?

    Strenuous exercise has been shown to increase oxidative stress, leading to the hypothesis that antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, might be protective. Research from Linus Pauling Institute shows that tissues release crucial antioxidants into the blood during prolonged exercise. In fact, the rate of vitamin E utilization increases during exercise. A new study by Muller and colleagues studied the effect of intravenous vitamin C prior to exercise in 14 individuals with peripheral arterial disease. Blood pressure increases in the leg during exercise and before pain manifests. This pressure response is an effect of muscular contraction. They report that vitamin C helped attenuate the onset of muscle pain by 50%.

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    Critical Nutrient Density Essential in Complementary Foods for Infants

    Just as Hurricane Sandy reminds us that nature controls our environment and our lives, we need to remember that babies rely upon others for nutrients, at least until they are able to forage for food themselves. A new paper in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition discusses the importance of nutrient adequacy of young children’s diet. WHO recommends ad libitum exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months of life with the introduction of complementary foods from 6 to 24 months of age. Vossenaar and colleagues identify nutrient gaps facing Guatemalan infants.

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    How Can You Measure Effects of Vitamin D Levels on Newborns' Bones?

    Bones are the framework that supports and protects bodies. They may seem strong and permanent, but they grow considerably until the end of adolescence, and after that constantly undergo remodeling to repair the many minor and sometimes major fractures and damage that result from daily life. The importance of providing the right nutrients for proper bone growth and maintenance throughout the lifespan, starting before birth, is given due attention in general nutrition advice. In pregnant women, protein intakes are required for not only bone but also for other functions. Most women in high income countries get enough protein. Developing fetuses normally are not at risk of calcium deficiency because they can draw on the large reserves in maternal bone. The third important bone nutrient, vitamin D, is a risk nutrient.

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    The Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

    The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues to subsume activity. New Jersey was particularly hard hit. Eight days later, one of our two DSM campuses is still closed. Phone service was just restored yesterday to our other campus. Many employees still do not have electricity in their homes. Without electricity, there often isn't heat or running water.

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    Who Should be Taking a Daily Multivitamin?

    At the American Heart Association scientific session today in Los Angeles, CA and simultaneously in JAMA, Sesso and colleagues report that US male physicians taking a daily multivitamin supplement to more than a decade do not have reduced risk of major cardiovascular events compared to those taking a placebo.The Physicians’ Health Study II (PHS II) report is expected to generate headlines dismissing the value of using multivitamins. Is that really the case? Let’s examine the facts. Beginning in 1997, a total of 14,641 male US physicians, 50 y and older, were enrolled in the study.

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    Linking Mechanism to Epidemiological Research to Investigate Role of Vitamin D in Bladder Cancer

    Vitamin D deficiency has been identified as a serious issue for many people over the world, as the Vitamin D Map shows. Besides its role in bone health, the discovery of vitamin D receptors on many cell types including muscle, bone, breast and bladder tissue as well as in cells important in the immune system has stimulated considerable research into other areas of health. The active form of vitamin D, calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D), has been shown to modulate gene expression, in particular to activate gene transcription (see this review of vitamin D metabolism by Colorado State University for background information).In vitro studies show that vitamin D also affects tumor cells both at the cellular level and in the environment surrounding tumors, which means that vitamin D can regulate tumor cell death, adhesion, growth of blood vessels near the tumor cell and metastasis of the tumor.

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    Nutrition Lessons from Hurricane Sandy

    As Hurricane Sandy blew across the northeastern region of North America, it was a reminder of the importance of building for the future. The importance of an infrastructure to support people during a time of need is undeniable. Investments are needed at a community level to have emergency centers with electricity, heat, and water. At a personal level, those who have aggregated nonperishable foods, potable water, and fuel to run generators have a better opportunity to survive the assault. In a similar fashion, people need to accumulate nutrients to build strong bodies capable of withstanding unexpected stresses. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsement of the Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D are very important because these shape national programs targeted to ensure nutrient adequacy.

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