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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'December 2013'

    The Most Popular Micronutrient of 2013

    Our TalkingNutrition blog has been active now for almost three and a half years, and we have been proud to bring our readers located all over the world the most up-to-date news on nutrition research since then. The basis of our blog are the thousands of research articles published every year, each one a very small piece of the enormous puzzle of human nutrition science. Last week, we brought you our most read blogs of 2013. And this week, as we did in 2011 and 2012, we present the results of our informal search of the most popular micronutrient of 2013. 

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    TalkingNutrition in 2013: How Did We Do?

    2013 was a great year for TalkingNutrition! Our main aim is to provide a source of relevant and timely information about recent nutrition research findings. We respond, often within hours of publication, with useful and referenced information written by nutrition scientists to place nutrition science in the context of a healthy diet. Read on for our figures this year!

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    How Low Can You Go? Vitamin D Levels through the Seasons in Pregnant Women

    From a strict nutrition point of view, vitamin D is not an essential nutrient. The term “essential” is normally reserved for nutrients that are required for life, and must be supplied from an external source because they cannot be produced by our own bodies. In the presence of sunlight, humans can produce enough vitamin D to support life, which makes vitamin D conditionally essential.

    The problem with this strategy is that for people who have low exposure to sunlight, vitamin D is essential and must be provided by the diet or supplements. This is particularly important in pregnant women.

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    Is Your Nutrition Tank Full? Dietary Assessment vs Biomarkers

    Imagine this scene. You are going out the door to drive to see family or friends during the holidays.  Other people drive the same vehicle. As you approach it, you wonder: do I need to buy gas?  What would you do? 1) Go back inside to ask available drivers when they last purchased gas and how much they spent. 2) Check the fuel gauge in the car. My reason for asking is to force you to contemplate nutrition assessment.

    Because of convenience and cost, dietary assessment is the most frequent approach. Kilpatrick and colleagues conducted a systematic review of studies 

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    Do Vitamins A, E and Zinc Affect Immunity in Well-Nourished Seniors?

    Three nutrients that are needed for the immune system are vitamins A, E and zinc. Deficient individuals have a compromised immune system. The elderly appear to be at increased risk of vitamin deficiencies and also seasonal influenza, which is why  Sundaram and co-workers investigated the relationship. 

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    If Only Everyone Lived in a Perfect World, Nutrition Would be Irrelevant

    Since Annals of Internal Medicine lifted their embargo at 5pm EST on Monday, headlines would have you discard your multivitamin supplements because they are useless and some say harmful. It is astonishing, and embarrassing as a scientist, that findings from 3 intervention trials involving multivitamins are being extrapolated into a diatribe against the universe of dietary supplements. After all, dietary supplements come in many forms: multivitamins, single vitamins (often higher levels per serving), herbal products, and combinations. And the majority of people have not had a heart attack. And most people are not medical physicians (and certainly not male). These are important distinctions which qualify (limit) the interpretation and extrapolation of these studies. 

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    3 Reasons Multivitamin Supplement Headlines don’t Apply to You

    Should I be taking a multivitamin supplement? If the headlines are confusing you, let’s discuss the studies and what you need to know.

    Have you had a heart attack recently? Are your periodically using intravenous infusions? If not, then this study isn’t relevant to you.  Lamas and colleagues wanted to know if patients who had previously had a heart attack (myocardial infarction) benefitted from taking a high-dose multivitamin supplement or intravenous infusions of a chelating agent. And the authors also fail to highlight that the controls also received an open-label, oral, low-dose vitamin regimen. 

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    If only Nutrition Guidance could be as Simple as Nutrition Headlines

    In an editorial in the New York Times, Paul Offit and Sarah Erush opine on the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia policy that parents discontinue use of dietary supplements when their children are hospitalized.  As a parent, one of the most horrifying experiences in the world is having a child require medical attention beyond routine checkups and vaccinations. The transfer of responsibility for your child to a medical doctor in a hospital creates an overwhelming feeling of helplessness as a parent. Yet, it is necessary because the child needs medical attention. And to fully apply their knowledge in the medical treatment of your child under special circumstances, doctors need to know what the child is consuming. 

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    Be Evidence-Based. Don’t Let Superstitions Drive Your Health

    Friday the 13th is a day of superstitions. USA TODAY says there are 5 things to know on Friday the 13th. If you persist past the ads, you will learn about 5 possibilities with better odds of happening than winning a $400 million Mega Millions jackpot.  Here are insights from 3 research papers which will help you maintain health.

    Introduction. Oxidative stress happens throughout life. Metabolism generates  free radicals which contribute to inflammation. Activities which increase metabolism, such as strenuous workouts, pregnancy,  or infections, contribute to oxidative stress, the production of free radicals and inflammation. 

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    Choosing the Best Approach for Salt Reduction

    Salt reduction is one strategy that is widely recommended to reduce high blood pressure and the cardiovascular complications associated with it. Sodium, the mineral in salt responsible for high blood pressure, is essential and needed to regulate blood volume, blood pressure, maintain an equilibrium in dissolved mineral concentrations within and between cells, and other functions. Almost everyone consumes more salt than is needed for these vital functions. Salt intakes are on average too high and are a contributor to hypertension, heart attacks and stroke. But what is the best strategy to reduce salt consumption? Should it come down to individuals taking control of their own health, or should it rest squarely on the shoulders of the food industry?

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    Researchers Find Omega-3 Dietary Supplements Reach the Brain

    Every cell in our body is encased in a cell membrane consisting of fatty acids. Fatty acid tails face into the lipid bilayer and membrane fluidity is a reflection of fatty acid length (number of carbons) and degree of saturation (proportion of double vs single carbon-carbon bonds.  Increasing the omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) increases fluidity and the functioning of proteins traversing the membrane.

    Higher plasma eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels are associated with lower total mortality (27% across quintiles) and the evidence is strongest for cardiovascular deaths. In fact, Mozaffarian and colleagues reported earlier this year that people over 65y with the highest plasma omega-3 levels (highest quintile) lived ~2.2 years longer 

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    Is there a Link Between Maternal Folate Exposure and Asthma?

    Folate is an essential nutrient for everyone, and particularly expectant mothers. Folate deficiency is associated with increased risk of major congenital abnormalities such as spina bifida. Folate has various roles in the body: the formation of red blood cells, DNA formation and repair, amino acid metabolism. Folate also influences epigenetic programming and the immune system. The role of folate in the development of childhood allergy including asthma focuses on these last two points. In the latest issue of Nutrition Reviews, Brown, Reeves and Bertone-Johnson summarize the current evidence on folate status during pregnancy and the later development of asthma. 

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    AREDS2, Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

    There is a good reason to eat the recommended number of servings of vegetables. It is good for your eyes. New analysis of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) finds that lutein and zeaxanthin are important to maintain vision.

    AREDS 2 assessed the value of adding lutein and zeaxanthin to the AREDS formulation containing vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-caroten and zinc with copper. Remember, that the AREDS formulation reduced the 5-year risk of developing late age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 25%  

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    Vitamin D and Health: Still Accruing the Evidence

    At TalkingNutrition, we identified vitamin D as the most researched vitamin in both 2012 and 2011, and even though we haven’t started our analyses yet for 2013, based on what has been coming through our daily searches, it will probably maintain its top position for this year. A systematic review published late yesterday in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology by Autier, Boniol, Pizot and Mullie summarized results from a great number of vitamin D publications, both observational and intervention studies. What were the final conclusions?

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    Being Ready for a Rainy Day: Vitamin D and Antioxidant Nutrients

    Looking out the window, the day is gray. The sun is blocked by a heavy layer of clouds, it rays barely reaching the ground. In my case, it is overcast because of rainfall. In other places, smog may be the cause. Regardless, it is a poor day for cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D.

    According to a systematic review of 195 studies in 44 countries published between 1990 and 2011 (Hilger et al, 2013), my situation is not unique. 88% of the studies had mean serum

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    Keeping a Healthy Body Weight and Nutrient Adequacy

    Three new studies report that low omega-3 fatty acid levels and excessive body fat are contributors to inflammation and poor health.

    Reinders and associates wanted to know if circulating long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) might induce loss of heart function. Using cross-sectional serum LC-PUFA data from 621 participants in the Hoorn Study and longitudinal data from another 336 participants (average age = 68.6y), they report that lower eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were associated with both lower left ventricular ejection volume (LVEF) and heart rate. These are findings of reduced heart rate were also reported in a meta-analysis by Mozaffarian et al (2005).

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    Good Nutrition is Part of the Framework that Supports Investments in Global Health

    Today is the 20th anniversary of the landmark 1993 World Development Report that identified how important investments into health care are for human development. A Lancet Commission has developed a new investment framework to further reduce the health gap between developed and developing countries and improve global health during the next two decades. Although progress has been made, how can we ensure that investments in health care can improve development going forward?

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    800th Post: Nutrients for the Eyes

    Days will continue to shorten for those living in the northern hemisphere for another few weeks. For most, this means commuting in the dark. Shadows are long for much of the day. If there is any precipitation, lights glare from wet surfaces. For many, these conditions make it difficult to see properly.

    Weikel and colleagues review the importance of nutrition in maintaining vision 

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