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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'August 2013'


    Diabetes, Brain and Heart Health: Is it time for an Authoritative Review on Vitamin E?

    As summer fades and fall approaches in the northern hemisphere, the cycle of life comes to mind. What will senescence bring? Cognitive decline is evident in 45-49 year olds and it continues with aging (Singh-Manoux et al, 2012). Can better nutrition change the outcome?

    Haptoglobin is an antioxidant protein which helps prevent hemoglobin-induced oxidative damage. Genetic polymorphisms in the haptoglobin protein are known to interact with vitamin E status, partially explaining a 3-5 fold effect on cardiovascular disease risk in some individuals with diabetes (Vardi et al, 2012). In a new study, Ravona-Springer and colleagues report a similar interaction between haptoglobin genotype and cognitive functioning in elderly individuals with diabetes. 

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    Don’t Let the News Overwhelm your Dietary Goals

    Sometimes the news seems overwhelming. Rioting. Terrorism. Red lines and threats of military action. Forest fires. Flooding. So many terrible events happening around the world. Maybe indulging in a comfort food will be helpful. Maybe not.

    According to a study based on 3-day diet records, verified by a registered dietitian, only 8 of 196 young people (4.1%) have an ideal Healthy Diet Score (Forget and colleagues). 

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    Understanding Vitamin D Requirements During First 12 Months of Life

    Science progresses continuously but not at a constant velocity. Today’s blog highlights the importance of thoughtful, deliberative discussion among scientists. Stimulated by a May peer-reviewed publication on the effects of vitamin D supplementation to infants during their first year, two letters were sent to the Editor of JAMA. Here is the story.

    Using the classic gold standard scientific design, double-blind, randomized clinical trial (RCT), Gallo and colleagues followed 132 healthy, term, breastfed infants from Montreal, Canada who were randomized to receive vitamin D orally (400, 800, 1200 or 1600 IU/d) for 11 months.

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    Starting School Right – With a Nutritious Breakfast

    School is beginning. It may be a heart-wrenching time for both parents and children. Many will experience both anticipation and jitters throughout the morning. Don’t be surprised if excitement fades to anxiety as the school bus pulls up or your child walks toward the school door. Their eyes can widen and one can sometimes see summer tan fade. If holding hands, the grip will tighten. Parent and child will feel more emotional. It is not uncommon to be fearful of change. Reassurance helps give strength.

    As a parent, be reassured by the 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study results from the Centers for Disease Control.

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    Don’t be Afraid of Mercury Poisoning: Supplement Omega-3s with Confidence

    There is a lot of news coverage on the mercury content of fish today because of an article published in Nature Geoscience. What does this mean? Should we not be eating fish?

    Mercury is found in nature and in our food supply. Mercury can attach to particulates and it can be methylated by microbes in low oxygen environments. As organisms are consumed by species above them in the food chain, mercury is concentrated. These processes are most well understood in coastal areas. Blum and colleagues studied the amount of microbial methylation occurring in the open ocean. Their report extends our knowledge of the interconnectedness of the world. It does not change the 2003 American Heart Association recommendations on the importance of consuming omega-3 fatty acids.

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    Public Health and (Mal)Nutrition: Societal, Ecological and Economical Opportunities

    In the preamble to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius write, “Based on the most recent scientific evidence, this document provides information and advice for choosing a healthy eating pattern – namely, one that focuses on nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and that contributes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.” As one reads on, they clearly state the Guidelines are intended to be the foundation for nutrition messages and government nutrition-related programs. 

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    Using Nutrition-related Biomarkers to Improve Health

    Yesterday TalkingNutrition wrote about the confusion created when we are presented with competing messages regarding the best diet for long-term health. A lack of objective measurements of nutritional status contributes to the confusion. Because it is cheaper and more convenient than collecting blood or tissue samples for analysis, researchers often rely upon estimates of habitual food intake to assess nutritional status. Measuring food intake is fraught with errors: selective dietary recall, underreporting of the amount of food consumed, inaccurate food compositional data, etc. The name of one commonly used tool, the semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire (FFQ)

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    A Call to End Diet Debates

    Writing a science-based blog is simplified by the daily publication of new research studies. Inspiration is not the result of soul-searching rather it stems from a daily perusal of RSS feeds spewing peer-reviewed content. When the eye is drawn to a particularly compelling study, the nascence of a blog begins. At, our mission is to provide perspective on new research (study X shows that nutrient Y does/does not alter condition Z) by weaving these findings with other research.

    Today’s blog is based on an editorial “A Call for an End to the Diet Debates” in JAMA. Pagoto and Appelhans identify two reasons for the persistent diet debate: 

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    Vitamin D Important for Health of Pregnant Women and their Children

    As fall approaches and summer draws to a close in the northern hemisphere, it is timely to think about vitamin D. The Swedish Research Council and other funding sources were compelled by researchers interested in understanding the factors influencing maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy. Not surprisingly, since low serum 25(OH)D levels are associated with gestational diabetes and hypertension.

    Brembeck and colleagues took blood samples from 95 fair-skinned pregnant women living in Sweden between gestational weeks 35 and 37. 

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    School Reporting of BMI to Parents: Helpful, Intrusive or Dangerous?

    Although knowing may be half the battle, providing knowledge of a child’s weight to parents via school-based programs is a tactical quagmire in the fight against obesity. In 2003, the US State of Arkansas made history with controversial legislation requiring BMI screening of children in schools and subsequent reporting to parents. The editorial in Pediatrics today discusses more widespread uptake of school reporting of child obesity to parents

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    Compelling Reasons to Study Vitamin E Status

    Earlier this year, the US and Canadian governments established Federal Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) Committees to prioritize nutrients for government-funded reviews and subsequent commissioning to establish reference values.  The announcement was published in the Federal Register.

    Sixteen nutrient substances were nominated. Five of these are fat/fatty acids: saturated fat, stearic acid, and the long-chain polyunsaturated acids - arachidonic acid (ARA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The remaining 11 were: choline, chromium, fiber (viscous and fermentable), magnesium, niacin, potassium, protein, sodium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and zinc. 

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    What Are the Consequences of Malnutrition in Hospital Patients?

    Our blog post yesterday was based on reports that one out of three Americans admitted to hospital are malnourished. But why is this concerning? A scientific article published online yesterday by Quraishi and co-workers answers that question in reference to one of the most widely studied nutritional deficiencies, looking at whether there is a difference in rate of bloodstream infections acquired in the hospital according to vitamin D status.

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    Nutrition Advice and Hospitalization Outcomes

    Nobody wants to be admitted to the hospital yet according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20% of people report at least one emergency department visit in 2011. The most common reasons are injuries from falls, being struck  by a person or object, motor vehicle traffic accidents, and cuts. We know that a greater focus on safety can reduce the chances of being involved in an accident leading to an emergency visit.

    Nutrition is also at the heart of many chronic non-communicable diseases – heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s. The latest CDC statistics 

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    Studies Link Diabetes, Antioxidant Vitamins and Atherosclerosis

    Diabetes mellitus is a debilitating disease. Individuals with diabetes face daily challenges to manage blood glucose levels and increased risk of long-term vascular complications affecting the heart and brain. Diabetes is becoming more prevalent worldwide. In addition to the personal burden, the disease is transforming societies.  For example, 10% of total UK health resources in 2010/2012 were diabetes-related  and these are projected to 17% in 2035/2036.

    A new cross-sectional study in 350 individuals with Type 2 diabetes reports greater brain atrophy and cognitive impairment

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    Investing in Tomorrow’s Leaders: International Youth Day

    Today the United Nations is celebrating International Youth Day. International Youth Day began in 1999. This year the UN is emphasizing the positive contribution young migrants make to their home societies.

    There are approximately 22 million young international migrants yearly who often face poverty, crowding and unsanitary living conditions, and difficulty finding decent employment. Because migrant adolescents are in a state of transition, little is known about their nutritional status. 

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    Can Sugar and Saturated Fat be Eliminated without Impacting Essential Nutrient Intakes?

    Over 79 years ago nutritionist Victor Lindlahr published his book “You are What You Eat: How to Win and Keep Health with Diet”. Since then overweight and obesity has increased dramatically. Yet more than 870 million people do not have enough to eat, poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under 5y, and roughly 100 million (1 of every 6) in developing countries is underweight (World Food Program statistics). The world has a double burden of overconsumption (calories) and hidden hunger (underconsumption of essential nutrients).

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    Averages, Optimal Vitamin D Levels, and Our Longterm Health

    Calcium and vitamin D are essential to maintain healthy bones. The risk of falls and hip fracture are associated with poor vitamin D status.  In the largest prospective case-cohort study of hip fractures (21,774 men and women aged 65-79y) to date, Holvik and colleagues report a 38% increased risk of hip fracture with serum 25(OH)D level <42.2  versus ≥67.9 nmol/L. The association was strongest in men than women. 

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    Vitamin C: Are you Eating Enough Fruit and Vegetables?

    ‘Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients’ is the opening sentence of the WebMD blog by Kathleen M Zelman MPH, RD, LD. Which makes it all the more surprising when Doll and Ricou report severe vitamin C deficiency in a 79 y male. Unfortunately, many people do not consume the recommended requirement (75-90 mg) of vitamin C daily.

    40% of French men and women (Sirot et., 2011), 44% of Americans (2001-2002 What We Eat in America),  and almost 25% of Mexicans (Barquera et al., 2009) have inadequate vitamin C intakes. 

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    Hoping you, and your Child, are Reading this Blog Outdoors in the Sunshine

    In the northern hemisphere, vitamin D status is usually at its highest during August. Yet the International Osteoporosis Foundation reports that vitamin D status is less than optimal for many. Because vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, researchers have wondered if serum 25(OH)D levels might be affect by adiposity in addition to sun exposure and dietary intake.

    Au and colleagues estimated vitamin D intake from foods and dietary supplements in 3,310 children/adolescents 

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Headaches and Brain Health

    Last week, we reviewed the study by MacIntosh and colleagues who randomized 67 subjects eating a typical high n-6 and low n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid diet (LCPUFA) were randomized to:  1) high n-3/low n-6 or 2) low n-6/average n-3 diets. Statistically significant changes in red blood cell (RBC) fatty acid levels were reported. It turns out the primary aim of the study was to assess the effect of dietary LCPUFA on chronic headaches, measured as the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6).

    In a separate paper, Ramsden and colleagues report 

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    Nutrition, Breastfeeding and Supplementary Foods

    This year’s World Breastfeeding Week emphasizes the need for breastfeeding support. With urbanization, many new mothers do not have the familial support found in other multi-generational communities. Without continued day-to-day support, it is difficult for many to continue breastfeeding for 6 months.

    Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrients for an infant. Globally only 38% of infants are exclusively breastfed for 6 months

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    Pregnancy Test: Maternal Nutrition Overwhelms Statistics

    The best of intentions sometimes fail. There can be many reasons. According to the Institute of Medicine, almost 60% of all pregnancies are unintended. While many factors contribute, e.g. knowledge about contraceptives, personal and cultural beliefs and behaviors, etc., the reality is that maternal nutritional status during pregnancy is important.

    Folic acid is essential during pregnancy for normal brainstem development. Mandatory folic acid fortification has reduced neural tube defects and childhood cancers

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