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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'September 2015'


    Looking for Information on Dietary Assessment for Research? Look Here!

    One of the great pillars of nutrition science is the estimation of nutrient intakes in populations. If we don’t know what people are eating, we can’t discover associations between nutrients and health. But, there are a great deal of different methods for estimating the nutritional content of people’s diets. How does one choose the best method? This new tool from the National Cancer Institute can help.

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    The Sugar Spectrum and Nutrient Density of the Diet

    Where do you sit on the “sugar spectrum”? The possibilities run the gamut from sugar-shunners, the moderation crowd, or worshippers of all things Sweet. Today's research looks at whether added sugar "dilutes" other nutrients from children's diets. 

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    How Does Pregnancy Impact Vitamin D?

    We all know that in addition to finding it in your diet, vitamin D is synthesized in the skin from sun exposure. This interesting fact makes vitamin D is a tricky nutrient to study, since the concentration of vitamin D status in the body fluctuates as the seasons change. But do other factors impact vitamin D status?

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    Dietary Guidelines and Confluence of Interest

    In a journalistic article that has stimulated a plethora of posts (Newsmax, World Food News, Mother Jones, and MinnPost), Nina Teicholz expresses concern about bias and the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report.

    In an article anticipating a public hearing of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in the House Committee on Agriculture on October 7, Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes that US Dietary Guidelines are based on the wisdom of “don’t eat anything your ancestors wouldn’t have eaten while watching Cheers on network television”. 

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    What? Zero Tolerance on Trans Fatty Acid Intake may be Irrational?

    Game changer or media sensationalism? How can there be a headline that “not all trans fatty acids are bad for you”? Of course, one new study does not refute scientific consensus. However, important observations by Kleber and colleagues may change the course of nutrition guidance in the future.

    Two types of trans fatty acids (TFA) are commonly found in the human diet. TFAs are ingested as meat and dairy products from ruminants and industrial fats, e.g. partially hydrogenated plant oils. 

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    Vitamin B12 Deficiency Prevalent in Colombian Children

    As a follow-up on our post a couple of years ago “Why Is Widespread Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Developing Countries Being Ignored?”, a new study reports on vitamin B12 deficiency in Colombian children aged 5 to 11 years. Are these children at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency?

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    Straight Lines Rarely Describe Nutrition and Health Outcomes

    Are you a supporter of banning, restricting, or limiting certain food substances? Maybe sugar? Or some fats? Or salt? If so, you should read this interesting paper published in JAMA on J-shaped associations. Chokshi and colleagues use alcohol consumption as an example. However, most nutrient exposure/mortality relationships are J-shaped. Policies based on linear relationships and simplistic calls to limit, restrict, or ban nutrients or food components are naive and can be misleading.

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    Time for a Change in Approach when the Nutrition ScoreCard is Such a Failure

    According to a nationally representative analysis, US children and adolescents, across all age and ethnic groups, are failing to meet minimum federal guidelines for good health. The gap is huge. The minimum standard, measured as a Health Eating Index (HEI) score, is 80. Across all age groups, the average HEI score was ~50.

    The prevalence of nutrient deficiencies isn’t changing. Fruit and vegetable intake isn’t increasing among adolescents.

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    Understanding the Difference Between Food Insecurity and Nutrition Insecurity

    With a growing number of desperate individuals and family seeking safer havens, closing or fortifying borders shouldn’t be the only concern of world leaders. Regardless of physical location, regardless of our plight, people require food (food security) to fill their stomachs and nutrients (nutrition security) to sustain our bodies. A global crisis requires global action.

    Katre and colleagues assessed the prevalence of vitamin insufficiencies (B6, B12, folate, amino acids) using blood samples in a small group of young women living in Pune, India (vegetarian) and Cleveland, USA (non-vegetarian).

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    Is a Lack of Dietary Antioxidants Contributing to Chronic Disease?

    The American Heart Association recognizes metabolic syndrome as a combination of factors that multiply a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. With ~ 34% of American adults being affected, metabolic syndrome is an important health concern.

    Oxidative stress is thought to play an important role in the pathologies of chronic non-communicable diseases and cancer. In a new publication, Sugiura and colleagues report higher serum β-carotene concentrations are associated with ~50% lower risk of metabolic syndrome

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    Vitamin D and Slowing the Rate of Cognitive Decline

    Vitamin D receptors are found in the brain (see article from Eyles), and various epidemiological studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of dementia (Shen and Ji). A recent publication by Miller and co-workers found a further link between vitamin D levels and risk of dementia. 

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    Increasing Omega-3 Intake Could Save Lives

    Behavioral, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks explain half of global mortality and > one-third of global disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs). A new report in Lancet finds 6 risks or clusters of risks caused more than 5% of DALYs. Dietary risks accounted for 10.4 million deaths and 241.4 million DALYs. Child and maternal nutrition accounted for 1.7 million deaths and 176.9 million DALYs.

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    Nutrients and Hearing - They're Related?!

    We know of the importance of maintaining proper nutrition to help support healthy aging. We know of the relationship that nutrients have with key components of aging, like bone health, heart health, and eye health. But when we think of the potential benefits of nutrition, most people would not list “maintaining your hearing” as one of them. Maybe it’s time to change that.

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    Can Fish Improve Your Vitamin D Status?

    Vitamin D is notoriously difficult to get in the diet. Excluding fortified sources such as dairy, the major naturally occurring source of vitamin D is seafood. Swordfish, salmon, and tuna are excellent sources of vitamin D, with one serving of these fish containing anywhere from 39-142 %DV. Sadly, in the real world, we just don’t eat a lot of fish: Americans only eat half a serving of seafood per day on average. Vitamin D status is a reflection of vitamin D intake, so this begs the question: how does fish consumption affect not only vitamin D intake, but also vitamin D status?

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    Chocolate: Good For the Heart But Not the Waistline?

    Two years ago, we were excited to report that chocolate consumption was associated with lower body mass index, waist circumference and body fat in European teenagers. However, the results in adults turn this news pear-shaped. Cocoa flavanols, however, have attracted interest for their effects on cardiovascular risk factors. What does the latest study say?

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    Pills / vitamins woman

    Do Your Genes Affect Whether Your Circulating Vitamin D Levels Will Increase With Supplementation?

    Eight years ago, fifteen vitamin D experts headed by Vieth put together a call-to-action on increasing vitamin D intake recommendations. They state that increasing vitamin D intakes by the recommended amount at the time would have only a modest effect on circulating levels of vitamin D. Even when the recommendations increased a few years later, the expected effect would still be relatively small. New evidence by Shab-Bidar and co-workers has found that genes can affect whether we respond to a vitamin D supplement. 

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    Nutrition and Food Insecurity: Scaling Up Nutrition during Transition Periods

    As authorities in Europe struggle to cope with hundreds of thousands of immigrants seeking refuge from areas of civil unrest, food and nutrition insecurity will be a major issue. Societal transitions challenge the capacity of existing infrastructures to scale their nutrition operations.

    In an excellent review, Gillespie and colleagues identify 9 elements that affect efforts to increase the scale of nutrition interventions. They are:

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    Accurate Measurements of Nutritional Status are Needed to Guide Us

    Underreporting of dietary intake undermines efforts to elucidate the role of nutrition (food patterns and nutrient intake) on health and disease outcomes. The most accurate tool to measure energy intake is using doubly labeled water (DLW) with isotopic tracers so total carbon dioxide production can be measured.

    Using DLW data from 2 studies involving >200 adolescents, Stice and colleagues compare DLW data with food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) results and other behaviorial/self-perception measures. The mean underreporting scores for the two studies were 1,270 and 668 kcal per day. That is a lot of calories! 

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    Annual Physical Examinations: Do MDs ask for a Food Frequency Questionnaire or a Blood Lipid Panel?

    In the field of nutrition, dietary intake is more often assessed using food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) or 3-day food records than biological markers. FFQs are used for convenience and because they cost less and are less invasive than venipuncture. FFQs are only valuable when validated against the gold standard – nutrient status assessed using biological markers.

    Allaire and colleagues compared a self-administered web-based FFQ against an interviewer-administered FFQ, 3-day food records, and biological samples collected from 60 men participating in a clinical trial (50% of total study participants). The men were 60 years of age with a mean body mass index of 27. 

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    Bioavailability of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Similar between Krill and Fish Oils

    Omega-3 fatty acids are known to benefit the heart. Research shows that n-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) which can lead to sudden death. In a world where most people do not eat the recommended two servings of fatty fish per week, supplementation is an important option to increase eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake.

    EPA and DHA found in fish oil are largely in the form of triglycerides. Krill oil has its fatty acids in triglyceride, phospholipid and non-esterified fatty acid forms. These differences have been used to generate controversy regarding the bioavailability of krill versus fish and algal oils. Frankly, most comparisons haven’t been apples-to-apples.

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