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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'January 2014'


    Will the Year of the Horse Change Nutrition Headlines?

    2013 was the Year of the Snake; characterized by malevolence, cattiness and mystery. Hopefully 2014, the Year of the Horse, will bring a new era of nutrition and science communication. What is my issue you may ask?

    The Chinese zodiac claims 2014 to be the year people stick to their principles and stand firm. It is time for scientists, and the media, to stick to their principles and engage in responsible translation of nutrition research to the public.

    Mechanistic studies using transgenic mouse models , ie genetically modified organism (GMO),  

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    Was Folic Acid Fortification Successful in Latin America?

    The fortification of cereal products in many countries to improve folate status of the population and reduce the number of neural tube defects in infants is considered to be a public health success story. Fortification is likely to be effective in countries in which the folate status of women of childbearing age is low, and according to the Flour Fortification Network, if the incidence of neural tube defects is greater than 1 in 1000 live births. Whereas some countries have had a program in place for over a decade, others are still considering whether to implement a program, or there may be a lack of support politically for mandatory staple food fortification. Evidence from Latin America addresses whether folic acid fortification was successful there. 

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    SUN Country or Not: Vitamin D3 is Important

    From the beginning of pregnancy to a child’s second birthday (the first 1000 days of life) are important. Nutrition is essential for a normal, full-term pregnancy and the development of the child’s central nervous system (folic acid), brain (DHA), and vision (DHA, lutein, zeaxanthin).  

    Preeclampsia is a life-threatening complication during pregnancy. It is typically diagnosed later in pregnancy with increases in blood pressure and urinary protein levels and fluid retention. 

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    Confused by Nutrition Labeling? Even Scientists Struggle

    A new study published by JAMA Pediatrics questions the social responsibility and societal marketing concepts within the dietary supplement industry. The reason? Madden and colleagues contend that the pediatric vitamin supplementation industry is not based on Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations and over supplementation is rampant. It is misleading to insinuate that dietary supplement formulations are irresponsible. Nutrition labels are a complicated ‘alphabet soup’ of expert recommendations (segmented by age and gender) and labeling regulations.

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    Measuring and Reporting Nutrition Status key to Improving Public Health

    Science is supposed to be a disciplined way to study the natural world. Insights from robust correlational observations are used to design experiments to test hypotheses. Ultimately, results derived through scientific methods are evaluated  by peers and published in a scientific journal. Unfortunately, sometimes the quality of the research and the rigor of the review process is inconsistent.  Three cases in point.

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    Vitamin D, Headlines, and Guidelines for Meta-Analysis of Nutrient Studies

    According to headlines by USA Today  and Bloomberg, people don’t need to be supplementing with vitamin D. It is ‘pointless’ to use vitamin D. This message, based on a meta-analysis of 9 intervention studies by Bolland et al (2014) is irresponsible. Being bundled up to endure the polar vortex, it is difficult to imagine that my skin is exposed to enough sunlight to meet my vitamin D requirement. Especially when experts increased the dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for vitamin D in 2010 and the choices of vitamin D-rich foods are limited.

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    Nutritional Assessment and Nutrient Guidance: Omega-3 Case Study

    In nutrition, there are 2 frequent means to link nutrients with health outcomes.  1) Measure food intake, usually with dietary records or food frequency questionnaires of food intake which are coupled with food databases. 2) Analyze a biomarker present in blood, urine, or tissue of individuals. Historically, the greatest emphasis has been on the former because nutritional biomarker analysis has been time-consuming and expensive. The problem is that people aren’t very accurate in reporting what and how much is eaten. The errors in estimating nutrient intakes are compounded  by the changing composition of foods as consumers and the food industry attempt to follow nutrition guidance.

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    Improving Nutrition to Maintain Health: Food and Supplement Choices

    One of the most effective ways to improve public health is to improve nutrition. A new review by Dwyer and colleagues with the support of the North American Branch of the International Life Sciences Institute examines the impact of food fortification.

    Enrichment and fortification are key contributors to intakes of vitamins A, C and D, thiamin, iron, and folate (Fulgoni et al, 2011). Without eating these processed foods, 

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    Precision Nutrition: From Cell to Society

    The International Life Sciences Institute is holding its annual meeting. Monday, ILSI North America hosted a session entitled “Precision Nutrition: From Cell to Society”. Two speakers, Dr Steven Zeisel, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Kannapolis and Dr Helene McNulty, University of Ulster, gave outstanding presentations on the interaction of genetics with nutrient requirements and health. 

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    Nonalcoholic Fatty Acid Liver Disease, Exercise & Vitamin D

    A healthy liver should be relatively fat-free because it sends lipids elsewhere in the body to be a fuel source, used to make cell membranes, or stored in fat tissues.  The accumulation of fat in the liver is an early sign of dysfunction.   As more people are overweight or obese, the prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increasing. Unfortunately, there are no outward signs of NAFLD which can progress to cirrhosis .

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    Surgery, Atrial Fibrillation, Anticoagulant Drugs and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Undoubtedly nutrition is important to our health. Too little of an essential vitamin or mineral can lead to deficiency. Too much may be hazardous although there is a very wide range of safety. Researchers often rely upon meta-analyses of multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with their larger number of participants to guide standards of care. These large studies often make headlines. Dietary supplement are often compared to drugs. Today’s question: Why do people accept drugs and reject the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation?

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    Using the Best Methods to Measure Health Effects of Omega-3s

    Are you getting enough of the omega-3 (n-3) long-chain polyunsaturated acids (LCPUFA) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)? Most people aren’t. Why? Because they do not eat the 2-3 servings of fatty fish recommended per week. And even if they do, this may not be sufficient because the fatty acid composition of the fats in our body reflects the profile of ALL the fat consumed.

    Patterson and colleagues analyzed the fatty acid profile of whole blood, plasma and red blood cells (RBC) isolated from 45 men and women who had been asked to consume 1g of EPA +DHA daily for a year. 

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    Vitamin D Status, Type 1 Diabetes and Immune Function

    Type 1 diabetes mellitus is caused when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. For undetermined reasons, the beta cells of the pancreas are attacked by the immune system and this leads to a complete deficiency in insulin required to transport glucose from the blood into cells of the body. The net result is that while blood glucose levels remain elevated after a meal, cells dependent upon insulin-dependent glucose transport are starved for glucose.

    Federico et al (2014) studied the relationship between serum 25(OH)D levels and activity of blood immune cells against islet antigens

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    Choose Nutrient-Rich Foods and Supplement to Fill Nutrition Gaps

    The truth of the matter is that most people do not eat a nutritious diet. We try to follow MyPlate recommendations for food groups:  fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy . And too often fail. For many reasons – time, cost, food availability (both in the pantry/fridge at home and restaurant choices in proximity outside the home), and individual food preferences. In reality, our bodies need vitamins to function properly. One option to help obtain essential vitamins and minerals is to use dietary supplements but there is always a cohort of experts who worry that this will lead to excessive micronutrient intakes. Is this the case?

    No. Not according to new research from Australia. 

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    To Understand Nutrition Science, Go Beyond the Headlines

    Headlines are meant to sell. They are not meant to explain. The purpose of headlines is, in internet parlance to entice us to click through, and in days gone by to purchase a newspaper/magazine. Unfortunately, science doesn’t usually translate well into a headline. Nor can science really be communicated in 140 characters. That is why most tweets by @DSMNutrition have links to blogs. The goal is to provide followers with more detailed information which helps add perspective to the latest study. The intent is to integrate these new findings with context in the greater body of scientific literature.

    Nutrition science is complicated. Sometimes nutrition research focuses on 

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    Johns Hopkins Celebrates Vitamin Research with George C Graham Lectureship (and More)

    The  Human Nutrition Division in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (@JohnsHopkinsSPH) recently celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Discovery of Vitamins and the memory of their founding director, Professor George C Graham.

    The 7th Annual George C Graham Lectureship in Infant and Child Nutrition was given by Dr Bruce Ames from Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. After a brief review of the contributions of Dr Graham and welcoming comments by faculty from Johns Hopkins, it is worth listening to the video of Dr Ames’ keynote address 

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    Vitamin D intake vs serum 25OHD level after 12mo supplementation

    Getting a Grip on Vitamin D and Muscle Strength

    Vitamin D status has been linked to muscle function. Low serum 25(OH)D levels are associated with muscle weakness in elderly people (Smit et al, 2012). Vitamin D supplementation in healthy men and women 70y and older with mean serum 25(OH)D levels of ~55 nmol/L increased these levels to ~85 nmol/L and significantly improved quadriceps strength (Pfeifer et al, 2009). These findings are in adults.

    Harvey and colleagues wondered if maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy might affect muscle development in toddlers. Using a prospective UK-based mother-offspring cohort 

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    New Research Links Omega-3 Status with Cognitive Function

    New research from Japan confirms the value of consuming omega-3 fatty acids – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to maintain brain function as we age. Not surprising, the benefits of omega’3s to maintain membranes in brains and neural tissues and to support cardiovascular health have been known for years.

    To understand the role of omega-3 fatty acids on cognition, Otsuka and colleagues correlated serum DHA and EPA levels with measures of cognitive function in 232 male and 198 apparently healthy, community-dwelling 60-79y old Japanese.  

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    Promising to Make 2014 a Healthier, more Nutritious Year

    New Year’s Eve has passed. Now it is time to honor those resolutions! Like many people, I committed (in my head and now publically) to exercise more regularly and to improve my fitness (code for shrinking my waistline).  Because a BIG part of my goal is balancing calories to manage weight, I will adhere to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. This means reducing my daily sodium intake, consume less than 10% of calories as saturated fat, less than 300 mg cholesterol daily, keeping trans fatty acids to a minimum, and drinking alcohol in moderation.

    However, good health isn’t just a matter of calorie consumption and weight management. Unfortunately, overnutrition (too many calories for my activity level) and undernutrition (inadequate intake of essential micronutrients) co-exist. 

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    Do Your New Year’s Resolutions Include Achieving Recommended Omega-3 Intakes?

    In some parts of the world, consuming foods rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids is part of the normal diet. Countries like Japan, Sweden and Portugal are famous for the use of fatty fish in their cuisine, and ecological surveys of fish consumption have found that people in these countries have relatively high intakes of fish.

    Where I grew up in Australia, however, fish intakes are relatively low. When I decided that I wanted to make a healthy change a few years ago to meet recommendations about fatty fish consumption, and thus increase my consumption of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, I had an upward struggle. 

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    Vitamin E Slows Functional Decline in Alzheimer’s Disease

    Over the past 10 years or so, I have unfortunately witnessed the decline of a family member due to Alzheimer’s Disease. It has been heartbreaking to watch a vivacious and caring soul slowly fade away. In the early days, the increased forgetfulness and lack of motivation was a concern but could be matched by small actions such as devising new routines, placing smoke alarms and extra door locks, and increased attention from family members. As the disease has progressed, however, the burden on caregivers has steadily increased to providing around-the-clock care for the basic activities of daily life. Vitamin E, due to its role as a lipid-soluble antioxidant, is being studied for its role in preventing functional decline in Alzheimer's Disease. What do the results of a new, multi-center clinical trial have to say about vitamin E and Alzheimer's Disease?

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