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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'May 2015'


    What Is Your Menaquinotype? The Effect of the Microbiome on Vitamin K

    A not very well known fact is that we get vitamin K not only from the diet, but also from the bacteria that we co-exist with in our intestines. Vitamin K activity is provided by a group of compounds called vitamers. This is why newborns are given supplemental vitamin K: their digestive tract is sterile at birth and it takes time to acquire the microbes that make vitamin K. A recent study looked into more detail about how vitamin K is produced by the human microbiome, and possible links with diabetes risk markers.

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    Our Livers may Look More Alike than our Faces

    When listening to news reports of conflict among different groups within the world, one can lose sight of the fact that humans share so much in common. 99.9% of our genome is identical. Despite the apparent aggression among some people/groups, there is less than 0.1% difference among persons on the planet. We may look different – hair and eye color, body shape, skin color. We may adopt different beliefs and cultures – religions, languages, clothing. But truly, we share so much in common.

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    Switch: Redirecting from Fear of Food to Improving Nutrition

    Nutrition shouldn’t cause anxiety and despair. Eating should be an enjoyable way to achieve good health. Yet, as the Heath brothers describe in their book “Switch”, the effort is overwhelming because we cannot decipher a Food Pyramid any better than a Food Rhombus or Food Rooster. MyPlate provides advice on servings but it isn’t inspirational. Our bathroom scales are more likely to cause us to push away from the table and quit the ‘clean plate club’.

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    On Better Mousetraps And Breakfast Cereals…

    Can you build a better breakfast cereal? Two studies came out over the long weekend that suggest that, much like building a better mousetrap, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to breakfast cereals.

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    Help Increase Awareness about B Vitamin Requirements During Pregnancy and Lactation

    Pregnancy is a unique window of opportunity. Nutrition during pregnancy, and up to the child’s second birthday, shapes the life of a child – including the ability to learn, to grow, and long-term health. Two new studies emphasize the importance of maternal nutrition during pregnancy. More importantly, they also demonstrate the need for education, and sometimes changes in policy.

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Brain Volume and Executive Function

    A study of older adults at risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease found that those who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids did better than their peers on tests of cognitive flexibility – the ability to efficiently switch between tasks – and had a bigger anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region known to contribute to cognitive flexibility.A direct quote from

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    When it Comes to Nutrition, Herding Cats is Easier than Humans

    Two interesting vitamin D stories in the news today. In humans, higher vitamin D levels are linked to reduced risk of depression. In animals, low vitamin D status predicts 30 day mortality in hospitalized cats.

    Unlike humans who can produce vitamin D cutaneously, cats cannot. Thus cats are 100% dependent upon dietary sources of vitamin D. Titmarsh and colleagues measured serum 25(OH)D concentrations in hospitalized cats, hypothesizing that vitamin D status would predict mortality. 

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    Are You Someone Who Engages in Healthy Choices?

    More good news on the benefits of meeting dietary recommendations. The European Society of Endocrinology issued a press release emphasizing the importance of vitamin D for pregnant women.

    Based on a systematic review of 2,649 pregnant women and 1,802 newborn babies, the press release summarizes a report by Spiros and colleagues. Women living in the sunny Mediterranean region have have a lower risk of low serum 25(OH)D3 concentrations than those living in Northern Europe but the risk of vitamin D deficiency is still unnecessarily high. 

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    Lack of Vitamin B12 may Increase Heart Disease Risk Among Vegetarians

    For the past 30 years, people have been advised to limit cholesterol, saturated and trans fat intake, often by reducing their consumption of red meat, dairy, and eggs. Not surprisingly, many people conclude that a vegetarian is healthier for the heart. This may not be the case.

    Because plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 unless they are fortified, vegetarians can be vitamin B12 deficient.

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    Making Certain Children Consume Enough Omega-3s

    Developing brains and eyes of children need long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA). Two families of LCPUFA exist, omega-6 and omega-3, with the predominant fatty acid in our diet being linoleic acid (LA) and α-linolenic (ALA), respectively.

    Differences in the number of double bonds in the omega-3 and omega-6 families generate slight modifications in the biochemical structure of their metabolites which can affect cell signaling pathways. For this reason, the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats in our diets affects the fatty acid composition of cells in the adult body.

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    Vitamins and Cancer: Where is the Malignancy?

    Vitamins are essential nutrients. Nutrition plays an important role in maintaining health and prevent chronic diseases. Consumers deserve more integrity from commercial news sources then they are getting today.

    Based on a “study which will be presented at the annual meeting of the oncology society, which begins May 29 in Chicago”, Andrew Pollack of the New York Times is reporting “B Vitamin is Found to Help People Prone to Some Types of Skin Cancer”. 

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    Understanding Omega-3 Options: Eating Fish or Supplementing

    According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report, dietary patterns emphasizing seafood are generally associated with health benefits in the brain, cardiovascular system, weight management and cancer prevention. Why? Because seafoods contain omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

    DHA is a building block for all cells in the body, especially important for maintaining the structure and function of the brain, and DHA and EPA play an important role in cardiovascular health

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    Folate Receptor Antibodies and Preterm Birth: Folate Status is More Than Intake

    Preterm birth is a significant contributor to global infant mortality and disability. Internationally, rates vary from 5% to 18% of all births (see WHO factsheet). Although preterm birth is defined as any birth before 37 weeks’ gestation, the earlier that babies are born, the greater the risk of complications. Can folate status affect rates of preterm birth?

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    Avoiding Weight Discrimination and Early Death

    So many adages exist about nutrition and health. You are what you eat. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food. Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body. Less of this, more of that.

    Not surprisingly, dietary choices and nutritional status affect body weight and chronic disease risk. Lifestyle behaviors (not smoking, healthy diet, and adequate physical behavior) often co-exist. Smoking and physical inactivity have greater consequences on the risk of dying than nutrition

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    Benefits of Fruit and Vegetables: Researchers Claim it’s all about Vitamin C

    Rarely does one read a scientific paper with the potential of transforming a field of study. Most research studies ferret out details of a pathway or process. In terms of road construction, research is more often ‘ filling potholes’ to streamline travel than redesigning roads and changing the distance and time required to get from point A to B. Today’s main citation is a landscape change.

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    Do Health Benefits Or Nutrient Requirements Drive Diet Choices?

    Losing weight and being fit and healthy are some of the most common resolutions American’s make at the beginning of each year. There are numerous resources that can help people achieve healthy eating goals including the media (the subject of a previous post on Talking Nutrition), MyPlate which helps individuals use the Dietary Guidelines in the US and the Food Guide in Canada.  These resources are largely based around dietary intakes to help people meet their nutrient requirements.  But how often do you make a dietary choice because it helps meet your nutrient requirements? 

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    The Tail that Wags the Dog: Identifying People with the Greatest Nutritional Risks

    Yesterday I wrote that dietary supplements can be important contributors to nutrient intake and health. Many health professionals reject this premise, fearing it undermines determination to make healthy food choices. Others worry about questionable ingredients being promoted to enhance sexual performance or stimulate metabolism and weight loss. Some fear excessive use of high potency single vitamins.

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    Choices for Vitamin D, a Shortfall Nutrient

    After years of training and experience, I rarely admit to being a nutritionist at social events or during casual conversations such as a train, plane or bus. The reasoning is simple. When people learn someone has some expertise in nutrition, they usually: 1) express embarassment/guilt about their dietary choices or 2) have a question. The first makes me feel like a Debbie Downer conversation is about to begin. If the second situation leads to an open discussion of science and opinions on nutrition, that is interesting. However, too often people want validation of a belief or action.

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    How Can Food Packages Help People Make Healthy Choices?

    Making healthy nutrition choices is a challenge for many Americans. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report highlighted the many nutrient shortfalls in the diet of Americans including vitamins A, D, and C, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber.  In 2010 the facts up front-of-pack (FOP) labeling initiative was implemented to help consumers, make healthy choices. The approach is that there are ‘simple’ icons that show calories, nutrients to limit and an option to highlight the content of nutrients to encourage: shortfall nutrients plus iron and protein. These icons are readily noticeable on many products on grocery store shelves but are they resulting in healthier choices?

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