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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Measuring Biomarkers to Evaluate Nutritional Status

By Michael McBurney

As a reader, you will know I recommend using nutritional biomarkers to assess health outcomes rather than dietary intake guestimates. Wood and colleagues affirm these statements.  They analyzed dietary and biological data obtained from approximately 2,000 Scottish women who attended a baseline visit between 1990-1993 as part of the Aberdeen Prospective Osteoporosis Screening Study (APOSS).

Over the 10 years, their age increased (not surprisingly) as did their body weight (+2 kg), total cholesterol (+0.3 mmol/L), and HDL-C (+0.35 mmol/L). Median serum concentrations were: β-carotene concentrations 0.18 µmol/L, lutein/zeaxanthin 0.15 µmol/L, and α-tocopherol 12.5 µmol/L. Serum β-carotenoid concentrations were positively correlated with fruit and vegetable intake (r = 0.202, P < 0.001). Serum carotenoid concentrations were more tightly associated with biomarkers of chronic low-grade systemic inflammation (CLSI) than dietary patterns.  

Serum β-carotene (0.28 µmol/L), lutein (0.28 µmol/L) and zeaxanthin ( 0.09 µmol/L) concentrations in healthy Midwestern Americans are higher than those reported by Wood and colleagues. Serum α-tocopherol, but not ϒ-tocopherol, concentrations were associated with a suppression of  systemic inflammation (assessed by serum IL-6 concentrations).

These  Scottish subjects, as well as the majority of Americans over 60 years, are not maintaining healthy serum levels of antioxidants. Serum lutein/zeaxanthin concentrations are associated with macular pigment density. Patients with combined serum lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations greater than 0.21 µmol/L have reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Serum α-tocopherol concentration of 30-33 µmol/L optimally reduce mortality due to chronic disease.

These studies demonstrate the value of having biomarker status data.

Main Citation

Wood AD, Strachan AA, Thies F, Aucott LS, Reid DM, Hardcastle AC, Mavroeidi A, Simpson WG, Duthie GG, Macdonald HM. Patterns of dietary intake and serum carotenoid and tocopherol status are associated with biomarkers of chronic low-grade systemic inflammation and cardiovascular risk. 2014 Br J Nutr doi: 10.1017/S0007114514001962

 Other Citations

Traber MG. How much vitamin E?.....Just enough. 2006 Am J Clin Nutr 84:959-960

McBurney M, Yu E, Ciappio E, Bird J, Eggersdorfer M, Stoecklin E, Mehta S. Vitamin E status of the US adult population by use of dietary supplements. 2014 FASEB J 1041.7

Curran-Celentano J, Hammond Jr BR, Ciulla TA, Cooper DA, Pratt LM, Danis RB. Relation between dietary intake, serum concentrations, and retinal concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin in adults in a Midwest population. 2001 Am J Clin Nutr 74:796-802

Huang FF, Lin XM. Comparison of daily intake of lutein+zeaxanthin, serum concentration of lutein/zeaxanthin and lipids profile between age-related macular degeneration patients and controls. 2014 Eur PubMed Central PMID: 24743813