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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


The Wonders of Vitamins

By Michael McBurney

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to age-related disease. Non-communicable diseases (NCD) share common pathologies associated with oxidative stress, inflammation and mitochondrial alterations. Poor diet increases the risk of NCDs.

Fruit and vegetables are important sources of folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber. With the exception of women in South America, >69% of men and women do not consume recommended ≥ 5 servings daily. Using the USDA database, the authors matched fruit and vegetable categories with phytonutrient concentrations from the USDA flavonoid database and applied these values to serving information acquired with food frequency questionnaires. A US-based compositional probably does not apply universally. Nevertheless, this approach finds the majority of the world eating ≤ 2 µg lutein & zeaxanthin daily. Phytonutrient intake is primarily influenced by the quantity of a fruit consumed, i.e. lots of bananas or concentration, i.e. carrots are a concentrated source of β-carotene. In fact, often a single food accounts for 2/3 or more of a person’s total phytonutrient intake. Not surprisingly, when people don’t eat many fruit and vegetables containing a nutrient, i.e. lutein, intake will be low even when consuming recommended 5 or more servings daily. Variety of fruit and vegetable intake may even be more important than quantity. Unfortunately, the paper by Murphy et al (2014) is limited by its methodology: food intake questionnaires coupled with limited food composition data.

In contrast, within the same issue, Theofylaktopoulou and colleagues report dietary intake of riboflavin (B2) and vitamin B6 and plasma concentrations of these vitamins and metabolites in 7,051 healthy individuals living in Norway.  Dietary and clinical data is reported stratified by age and sex.  Figure 2 depicts relationships of vitamin metabolites versus plasma B2 and B6 concentrations (dose-response). Plasma concentrations of these vitamins are determinants of metabolite concentrations downstream, some of which are associated with inflammatory processes, neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune diseases, cancer and metabolic disorders. Using detailed dietary along with clinical analyses, these researchers gain unique insights into the wonders of vitamins.

Life requires metabolism of energy-containing nutrients (fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and alcohol). Physical activity increases the utilization of these nutrients . Vitamins and minerals are co-factors for metabolic pathways helping maintain normal levels of metabolites. Our bodies are wonderfully adaptable but they cannot function on calories alone.

Eat a balanced diet. Enjoy variety. And for peace of mind, use a multivitamin-mineral supplement.

Main Citations

Murphy MM, Barraj LM, Spungen JH, Herman DR, Randolph RK. Global assessment of select phytonutrient intakes by level of fruit and vegetable consumption. 2014 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S000711451001937

Theofylaktopoulou D, Ulvik A, Midttun O, Ueland PM, Vollset SE, Nygard O, Hustad S, Tell GS, Eussen SJPM. Vitamins B2 and B6 as determinants of kynurenines and related markers of interferon-ϒ-mediated immune activation in the community-based Hordaland Health Study. 2014 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114514001858

Other Citations

Camps J, Garcia-Heredia A. Oxidation and inflammation, a molecular link between non-communicable diseases. 2014 Adv Exp Med Biol doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-07320-0_1

Murphy MM, Barraj LM, Herman D, Bi X, Cheatham R, Randolph RK. Phytonutrient intake by adults in the United States in relation to fruit and vegetable consumption. 2012 JADA doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.08.044

Bhuparhiraju SN, Tucker KL. Greater variety in fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower inflammation in Puerto Rican adults. 2010 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29913