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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'May 2014'


    Fixing the Global Food System to Eradicate Malnutrition

    The article in Science Daily starts ‘Global malnutrition could fall 84 percent by the year 2050 as incomes in developing countries grow - - but only if agricultural productivity continues to improve and climate change does not severely damage agriculture, researchers say’.  The call for action by Dr Thomas Hertel, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University is to increase funding for agricultural research on agricultural productivity and the impact of global warming on food security.

    Increasing agricultural productivity is important. However, there is a more immediate opportunity. Food waste. Kate Raworth (@KateRaworth), Oxford University Environmental Change Institute tweeted

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    Fat Talk: The Perils of Malnutrition

    The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Health is more than the absence of disease and infirmity.

    A systematic review of 1,769 surveys, reports and published studies finds that the proportion of adults with a body mass index (BMI) > 25 kg/m2 has increased between 1980 and 2013 in men (28.8% to 36.9%) and women (29.8% to 38.0%). While the prevalence of obesity and overweight in children and adolescents hasn’t yet reached the level found in developing countries (~23%), it has increased in developing countries from ~8% to ~13% over the past 23 years. 

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    Recent Rise in Melanoma, and Getting the Balance Right Between Sun Exposure and Vitamin D

    Today, the Canadian Cancer Society published statistics showing that rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are on the rise. There were around 76,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer reported, and 6,500 cases of melanoma. Avoiding sun exposure will reduce risk of skin cancer, but how will this affect vitamin D deficiency levels?

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    Study on Antioxidants and Aging a New Piece in the Puzzle, Not Earth-Shattering News

    Earlier this month, Yee, Yang and Hekimi published an article in journal Cell on mitochondrial reactive oxygen species’ signaling in the roundworm in response to the herbicide Paraquat, which induces the formation of the free radical superoxide. They found that the roundworm had a longer lifespan when reactive oxygen species from Paraquat were introduced. These results were enthusiastically reported on today in the Daily Mail as a warning against “antioxidant vitamins”. Is this justified?

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    Gluten: Friend or Foe?

    The first time I made short-crust pastry, as a high school student, it was a complete disaster. I thought I had followed the teacher’s  instructions properly. Instead, when it was time to line my pie dish, I found myself wrestling with a mound of pastry with the consistency of a forgotten piece of pre-loved chewing gum. What had gone wrong? The answer: my teenage enthusiasm had caused me to overwork the dough. And overworked dough made of wheat flour produces gluten. A clear case of gluten as the enemy.

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    What is the Story on Omega-3s, DHA and EPA?

    Here’s the deal, it is in our nature to want things. To weigh less and be fitter. To have lower blood triglycerides. To have lower blood  pressure. To live free of cancer, advanced macular degeneration, memory loss, or  heart disease. Deep inside, we know that our diet affects the structure and function of our bodies (what we are made of). If only the experts would tell us what to eat or avoid.  Because people want this information, the media asks experts to share their knowledge and insights.  We read (scan?) headlines hoping find definitive answers (or maybe to justify our actions and/or reinforce our beliefs).

    A retrospective review by a senior Canadian cardiology expert questioned  the quality of 40 year old data linking arctic diets, rich in fish oils, with cardiovascular mortality. 

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    Vitamin B12 Adequacy and Supplement Dose: When Conclusions Don’t Make Sense

    Recently, MacFarlane, Shi and Greene-Finestone reported the effect that vitamin B12 supplements have on vitamin B12 levels in a Canadian population. Their conclusion was somewhat counter-intuitive, stating that high-dose vitamin B12 supplements do not improve vitamin B12 status compared to low-dose vitamin B12 supplements. As vitamin B12 absorption is somewhat dose-dependent (Doets et al. found that for every doubling in vitamin B12 dose, 30% less vitamin B12 was absorbed), their results are rather surprising. Surely, higher dose supplements should improve vitamin B12 status more than lower doses?

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    Vitamin C Supplements as a Strategy to Improve Infant Lung Function

    Smoking before and during pregnancy is a bad idea. Not only does smoking, or heavy smoking in the past, reduce fertility rates and increase risk of miscarriage, there can be effects on the embryo or fetus that continue into infancy, childhood and can be lifelong. For example, cigarette smoke directly reduces the amount of oxygen that travels across the placenta to the fetus and causes intra-uterine growth retardation. Can vitamin C be beneficial?

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    Asthma, Corticosteroid Dose, and Vitamin D

    If the media weren’t preoccupied with cyber-espionage charges by the US,  flooding in the Balkans, and the impact of global warming on the Antarctic polar cap, you might be reading about vitamin D, respiratory function, and asthma.

    Asthma is a common disorder where the airways of the lungs become inflamed and hyper-reactive. The resulting constriction makes it difficult to breathe. Asthma is a complex dysfunction involving over 90 genes and >800 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), none of which singularly contribute to susceptibility

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    Comparison: Human Body, Safe Nutrient Intakes and Leaky Buckets

    The 3rd International Vitamin Conference ended yesterday in Washington DC. Staff from the NIH National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) were actively involved in the conference. Presentations and discussions often centered on the importance of standards and robust, validated methods to accurately measure vitamins in products (e.g. foods and supplements) and biological matrices (e.g. blood, urine, biopsies).  Commutability was a frequently used term. Why? Because the merging of data acquired at many laboratories using different equipment at any time requires an understanding of the equivalence of numbers derived using different analytical procedures.

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    Could Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help Reduce Sports-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?

    Yearly, around 1.4 million mild traumatic brain injuries, such as concussion, occur that are serious enough to require hospitalization or an emergency department visit. While some causes are related to falls and motor vehicle accidents, an estimated 2 to 3 million traumatic brain injuries are due to sports, the majority of which are not treated in a hospital or emergency department (information from the CDC). Can brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids be useful in traumatic brain injury?

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Prostate Health

    Elucidating nutrient-health relationships is challenging. Once again, the news cycle will contribute to our confusion. Last summer, Brasky and colleagues published a paper and headlines associated omega-3 fatty acids with increased prostate cancer risk. Then editorials and scientific reviews  claimed the link was unproven. Prediction: today’s main citation will generate headlines that omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

    Moreel and colleagues hypothesized that omega-3 fatty acid concentrations in prostate tissue would be more strongly related to prostate cancer risk 

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    Lessons on Nutrition Consensus from Goldilocks

    Nutrition is complex. After decades of observation and experimentation, vitamins were discovered (over 100 years ago) to be essential for life. When vitamin intakes are too low, deficiency diseases become prevalent. When vitamin intakes are inadequate and status is suboptimal, health is compromised. Just like “The Story of the Three Bears”, researchers continue efforts to determine the amount of dietary X that is “just right”.

    Semba and colleagues hypothesized that resveratrol might be the elixir of life – the single entity explaining longevity. 

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    Vitamins: How Much is Enough? What is Optimal Status for Health?

    Interested in learning about vitamins? Which ones are most likely to be missing from the diet? What biomarker should be measured to assess vitamin status? What are the health consequences of a suboptimal vitamin levels? Can vitamin deficiencies affect hearing loss? Are vitamin needs affected by body fat content, physical activity, environmental pollutants? And more? Then you should be attending the 3rd International Vitamin Conference in Washington, DC, this week (May 12-15).

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    Nutrigenomics, Lutein and the Future of Nutrition

    Nutrition is an interesting yet perplexing subject. Why do some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want without putting on weight, while others have a diet that would put most dietitians to shame, yet remain overweight? How do some people manage to keep their cholesterol levels low through a sedentary lifestyle and high-fat diet, while others only need to look at a piece of cheese for their cardiologist to give them a call? Why can some people maintain normal levels of vitamin A on a plant-based diet, while others have to supplement? While there are many reasons for why nutrient status can differ with diet and lifestyle, an important difference is due to genetics. Today we will be looking at how our genes affect lutein levels.

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    Seeing the Present as it is: Omega-3 Index of Americans

    Everybody wants to grow old with grace.  The fear of losing our vision, not being able to see at night, not being able to read is frightening. Sometimes, despite our efforts, genetics play an important role in disease processes. Such is the case with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease that affects approximately 1 person in 100,000. How is omega-3 related to this eye disease?

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    Nutrients Affect Health: Let there be no Doubt

    This blog is dedicated to providing perspective on emerging nutrition science. As a scientist, I believe choices should be guided by the totality of the evidence rather than results from a single study.  Typically, this blog is written around the release of a new peer-reviewed scientific paper (with a link to the abstract). Several other relevant citations (usually 3 or more) are added to the blog to provide context to the new finding.  To restrict the field of studies we try to monitor, we choose to limit our blogging to human studies published within the past 24-48 hours.

    In his 2014 WO Atwater Lectureship, Dr David Allison, professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham

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    Cardiovascular Disease, Polyphenolics, and Magic Bullets

    Obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are associated with disturbed lipid metabolism.  Weight loss, increasing physical activity, and reducing saturated fat and cholesterol intake can successfully modify lipid risk profiles and cardiovascular disease risk. Nevertheless, people are always looking for magic bullets. The medical profession has found their antidote to prevent cardiovascular disease: prescription drugs, primarily statins.

    Most and colleagues investigated the effects of short-term supplementation of two combinations of polyphenols on energy expenditure and lipid metabolism

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    Nutrition, DHA and Child Development

    How do you determine if something helps a child be smarter than they would have been without it?  It is a tough question that  Makrides and colleagues attempted to answer.

    Neurodevelopmental outcomes were assessed in 646 children born from mothers randomized to receive 800 mg DHA (n= 313) or placebo (n = 333)daily during pregnancy at 18 months after birth and again 4 years later. Treatment by sex differences measured at 18 months in mean cognitive and language composite scores could not be seen at 4 years. What does this mean?

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    Social Pressures, Nutrition Choices and Good Health

    Hey Mom! What did you eat when you were pregnant with me? Remember now, I am not exactly young (only young at heart). And as a summer baby, my mother carried me during the winter months at a time when fresh fruit and vegetables weren’t as available all seasons. And I was born in an era when many infants were bottle-fed.

    So it is interesting to read that Gishti and colleagues couldn’t find consistent associations of infant feeding patterns with metabolic outcomes in a cohort of 3,417 children (mean age = 6y). 

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    Prostate Cancer, Vitamin D, and Skin Color

    Prostate cancer occurs more frequently in men with African-American ancestry. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of death in American men; lung cancer is number one (American Cancer Society). Today, Murphy and colleagues link prostate cancer risk to low vitamin D status and race.

    People with darker, more pigmented skin need to spend more time in the sun to synthesize and maintain normal vitamin D levels. With the advent of air conditioning, more indoor jobs, a paucity of vitamin D-rich foods, and guidance to use sunscreens to prevent skin cancer, many people have suboptimal vitamin D levels. 

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