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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'November 2013'


    Low Vitamin D Levels Increase Risk of Infection During Surgery

    In this age of rising health care costs, researching simple and effective means to prevent prolonged hospital stays is a priority. The past decade has seen increasing interest in the role that vitamin D plays in the immune system. Quraishi and co-workers recently published some results of a retrospective analysis into vitamin D levels before bariatric surgery and the risk of infection after the operation. 

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    Vitamin C, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Polymorphisms

    As our understanding of human genetics has grown, we are starting to appreciate the effect of how genes and environment interact. Researchers Shaghaghi and associates published an article on the effect that variations in a vitamin C transporter have on two forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Vitamin C is a major water-soluble antioxidant. It has been shown to reduce inflammation by scavenging reactive oxygen species to prevent cellular damage according to a review by Traber and Stevens. Buffinton and Doe found that levels of vitamin C were lower in people with inflammatory bowel disease, and this could hinder recovery of the intestinal lining. 

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    Under-Reporting Nutrient Intakes in Nutrition Research

    Have you ever kept a diet record or filled in a dietary questionnaire? Was it accurate? Did you forget to include something that you ate? Did you change your diet to make it seem like you eat healthier than you normally do? These are some of problems that make accurate assessments of food and nutrient intakes  difficult. Last month, Archer and colleagues reported results of an analysis of under-reporting in the NHANES nutrition survey. There has been a recent reply by Mitka. TalkingNutrition provides a perspective on this issue, and how it relates to nutrient intakes.

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    Eye Disease and Oxidative Stress: Can You Reduce Your Risk?

    Cataract is the worldwide leading cause of visual impairment, being responsible for a little under half of all cases according to the World Health Organisation. Cataract develops when the lens in the eye is damaged over time, and risk factors include older age, cigarette smoking and exposure to UV light. Although cataract can be treated surgically, there are barriers that prevent access in many countries. People also may suffer from impaired vision for years before they are treated for the condition. How can risk of cataract be reduced, and is there a role for antioxidants?

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    Diet Quality, Nutrient Biomarkers and American Thanksgiving

    Food consumption data is valuable for many reasons. As the CDC notes, the data is used nutrition monitoring and surveillance and a variety of policy making and research purposes, including dietary guidance, food fortification, environmental exposure assessment,  and nutrition assistance and education program planning and evaluation. The USDA has invested in the collection of national food consumption data for >70 years.  The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is the primary instrument used to nationally assess the health and nutritional status of Americans.

    Using cross-sectional data, Deierlein and colleagues assessed nutrient intakes and Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores of 1,306 New York City adults living independently (60-99y) 

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    Designing a Vitamin D Food Fortification Scheme: Bread, Juice or Milk?

    Food fortification has been credited with helping to avoid widespread vitamin and mineral deficiencies in millions of people over the past decades. The reason why fortification is so effective is that it has the potential to increase the nutrient levels within an entire population without requiring any behavior change on the part of the individual. Fortification may be particularly helpful to increase the supply of nutrients that are only found in a limited number of foods, or restricted within a few food groups. Vitamin D has been added to milk in the United States and Canada since the 1940s, and the introduction of a carefully-planned fortification policy has been credited with eliminating rickets as a public health issue (the National Academies Press has a summary of fortification programs in the US and Canada here).

    Other countries do not fortify with vitamin D. As vitamin D fortification is not allowed in Germany, yet the adult population appears to have generally low vitamin D levels compared to the US, Brown and colleagues have modeled the effect of fortifying various carrier foods with vitamin D 

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    Aging with Panache: Telomeres, Nutrition and Stress

    Telomeres are repeated nucleotide sequences which protect chromosomes during cell replication. In cell division, chromosomes are ‘read’. Having telomeres at the end to ensure the entire gene is transcribed. Similar to having an extra-long zipper in a coat which guarantees the full length of the coat is zipped up. Because some of a telomere may not get copied during replication, telomere regions become shorter as animals age. Shorter telomeres are associated with accelerated aging (Gasser & Coutre, 2013).

    Suboptimal nutrition and stress contribute to accelerated aging (Aiken et al, 2013). In a new study 

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    Vitamin B12 and Cancer: The Canary in the Coal Mine?

    Yesterday, TalkingNutrition reported on how an adequate vitamin B12 status can improve health outcomes for babies during their first thousand days from conception to two years of age. Today, an article on the link between high vitamin B12 levels and cancer risk by Arendt and colleagues has been picked up as a nutrition news story by various online news providers. What is going on here?

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    Vitamin B12, First 1000 Days, and Lifelong Opportunities

    Cells require a supply of methyl donors (vitamin B12, folate, methionine and choline) to function normally. Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common among vegans, the elderly, and people using medications to prevent heartburn. In vegans, the risk is increased because they don’t consume animal products which are rich sources of B12. In the other two examples, the primary cause is insufficient gastric pepsin and acid production required for its absorption from the gut.

    In a new review, Rush and colleagues bring together human and animal studies 

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    Assessing Folate Intake and Status for Pregnancy and Cardiovascular Health

    Folic acid status is especially important for women during pregnancy and to maintain healthy homocysteine levels (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease) throughout life. Changes in folate assessment methods have made it difficult to compare data (Pfeiffer et al, 2010) and to reliably quantify dietary folate recommendations for optimal health.

    Duffy and colleagues conducted a dose-response meta-analysis in healthy adults to quantify the relationship between folic acid intake and folate biomarkers.  

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    Vitamin K and Infant Bleeding: What Happens When Parents Refuse Preventive Measures?

    The CDC reports on four cases of vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) in infants aged 6 to 15 weeks in a Tennessee children’s hospital. VKDB condition is actually preventable, but why does it happen, what can be done about it, and why would some infants not receive preventive measures? 

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    Antioxidant Status Affects Bone Health and Muscle Strength

    Did you know that low serum vitamin E concentrations could lead to bone loss and muscle wasting?  Probably not but new data from the Swedish Mammography Cohort (SMC) and the Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men (ULSAM) finds that low serum concentrations of α-tocopherol are associated with an increased risk of fracture in elderly men and women.

    Swedes, like many others, do not consume recommended amounts of vitamin E.  Because  an increase in oxidative stress with aging leads to age-related bone loss and muscle wasting (sarcopenia), inadequate vitamin E status is a health concern. 

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    Preventing Vitamin E Deficiency in Preterm Infants

    Preterm birth affects around 10% of all births in the world, according to the World Health Organisation, and is a large contributor to poor infant-related outcomes. Not only are newborns at increased risk of illness because they have not had enough time to develop fully before they are born, the third trimester of pregnancy is also a time during which the greatest proportion of nutrients such as calcium, iron essential fats and the fat-soluble vitamins are transferred to the fetus. Vitamin E is one of those nutrients that is found in low levels in preterm infants. Researchers are interested in whether a simple treatment such vitamin E supplementation can help improve health outcomes in preterm infants. 

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    Multivitamin Supplements are Safe and Nutritious

    Two trials found a small, borderline-significant benefit from multivitamin supplements on cancer in men only and no effect on CVD. So reads the conclusion by Fortmann and colleagues after systematically reviewing studies on multivitamin use by community-dwelling, nutrient-sufficient adults. What does this mean? What about women?

    Cancer and cardiovascular disease are complex non-communicable diseases. Prevalence is attributable to many environmental and lifestyle influencers, including multiple nutrients – amount and type of fat consumed, vitamins, alcohol intake, etc. Using studies primarily conducted in men (because there weren’t many involving women), the most promising results came from 2 multivitamin trials using a wide variety of nutrients at physiological doses. 

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    Are Free Vitamins the Best Way to Prevent Widespread Vitamin D Deficiency?

    Over the weekend, reports came through about the rise of rickets in the UK over the past few years . The UK’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies included recommendations to provide free vitamin supplements to all children under the age of five in her report “Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays”. Her recommendations are based on surveys of vitamin D status in children that have shown a sizeable increase in rates of vitamin D deficiency and rickets

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    What Multivitamins do Health Professionals Choose?

    Nutrition is confusing. It is frustrating too because we really don’t know our nutrient status unless we get a blood test. The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2006) using blood lab tests reports that the prevalence of nutrient deficiencies hasn’t changed for vitamin B6, iron, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E and folate.  Without this information, how does one know if they should be using dietary supplements? To answer this question, let’s examine the practices of health professionals.

    Rautianien and colleagues examined multivitamin use in middle-aged men participating in the Physicians’ Health Study. 

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    Listening to Advice: Who Knew that Antioxidant Vitamins can Affect your Hearing?

    If you search google with the term ‘antioxidants’, one of the first links is MedlinePlus which states:

    Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

    No mention of antioxidants and hearing loss. So it was interesting to see the article by Choi and colleagues linking antioxidants with a risk of hearing loss.

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    Personalizing B Vitamin and Omega-3 Fat Recommendations with Genetic Testing

    Heart disease is the number one cause of death globally (WHO, July 2013). 7 million people died from heart disease (CHD) in 2011. 450,000 deaths in the US. More than 13 million Americans are affected with coronary heart disease and the direct health care costs exceed $150 billion annually. Doesn’t it make you wonder what to do nutritionally to prevent becoming included in these statistics? Is it more omega-3 fatty acids? Or B vitamins? The answer may lie in genetic screening.

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    November is National Diabetes Month – How Can Nutrition Help?

    Diabetes is a surprisingly common health problem. November has been designated National Diabetes Month in the United States to draw attention to diabetes and how to manage or prevent the condition.

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    Good Advice (and Evidence) to Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Heart Health

    Increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, especially long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to maintain a healthy heart, is recommended by many national expert committees and professional health associations (see DHA-EPA Omega-3 Institute).

    Inflammation and atherosclerosis are hallmarks of coronary heart disease. When it comes to limiting the progression of cardiovascular disease, one target for drug manufacturers 

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    Asthma, Inflammation, Lung Function and Vitamin E

    The number of people with asthma in the US is growing every year. According to the CDC, roughly 25 million Americans have asthma, half of whom have had an asthma attack in the past year. Asthma is more prevalent among the poor and African Americans, Hispanics and Puerto Ricans than Caucasians. Worldwide, 235 million people have asthma. It is the most common chronic disease among children (WHO, 2011).

    Asthma is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. One protective factor seems to be vitamin E, possibly because most people - especially children, young adults, non-Hispanic Blacks have low blood α-tocopherol levels 

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