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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Are You Someone Who Engages in Healthy Choices?

By Michael McBurney

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. The best predictors of maternal vitamin D deficiency were dark skin, race and dress habits.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently completed a review of the scientific literature on vitamin D and immune function. The EFSA Scientific Panel concluded that ‘a cause and effect relationship has been established between the dietary intake of vitamin D and contribution to the normal function of the immune system’.

Because few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D, and regulatory authorities limit the foods which can be fortified with vitamin D, dietary supplements are often needed to meet vitamin D intake recommendations. The same can be said for other shortfall nutrients.

Foods are always the first choice to obtain essential vitamins. However, many people do not consume healthy diets. As an example, vitamin E intake is often low because people do not consume foods rich in vitamin E. Circulating vitamin E concentrations are lower in persons living in environments and exposed to higher concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM < 10 microns).

Supplementation with multivitamins can improve blood concentrations. Elevated homocysteine concentrations, are a risk factor for stroke. Don’t expect to see short-term effects on functional indictors, e.g. cognition, even though B vitamin supplementation can lower homocysteine concentrations in 16 weeks. Although improvements in blood biomarkers can be measured in months, the effects of improved nutrition on health outcomes takes place over years and decades.

For many people, a multivitamin supplement provides nutrition insurance and is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Main Citations

European Society of Endocrinology. Sunshine alone not enough for vitamin D during pregnancy. Press release. 16 May, 2015.

Harris E, Macpherson H, Pipingas A. Improved blood biomarkers but no cognitive effects from 16 weeks of multivitamin supplementation in healthy older adults. 2015 Nutrients doi: 10.3390/nu7053796

Other Citations

Cotlarciuc I, Malik R, Holliday EG, Ahmadi KR, Pare G, Psaty BM, Fornage M, Hasan N, Rinee PE, Ikram A, Markus HS, Rosand J, Mitchell MD, Kittner SJ, Meschia JF, van Meurs JBJ, Uitterlinden AG, Worrall BB, Dichgans M, Sharma P, METASTROKE and International Stroke Genetics Consortium. Effect of genetic variants associated with plasma homocysteine levels on stroke risk. 2014 Stroke doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.005208

Menni C, Metrustry SJ, Mohney RP, Beevers S, Barratt B, Spector TD, Kelly FJ, Valdes AM. Circulating levels of antioxidant vitamins correlate with better lung function and reduced exposure to ambient pollution. 2015 Am J Resp Crit Care Med doi: 10.1164/rccm.201411-2059LE

Dickinson A, MacKay D. Health habits and other characteristics of dietary supplement users: A review. 2014 Nutr J doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-14