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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Understanding the Difference Between Food Insecurity and Nutrition Insecurity

By Michael McBurney

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). The fasting plasma levels of essential amino acids (valine, phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine) were significantly lower in the Indian women. Concentrations of vitamins B6, B12, folate, and homocysteine were significantly lower in the Indian women. 82% of the difference in circulating levels of basal total homocysteine in the two groups of women was explained by differences in the levels of vitamins B6, B12, and folate. One can conclude that these women were food secure and nutrition insecure.

The only way to increase circulating concentrations of essential nutrients is to increase dietary intake. Snacks can be an important food contributor; especially if they are fortified with vitamins and minerals. When food is limited or unavailable, multivitamin-mineral supplements can be an important and safe source of essential nutrients. As nutritionists, our goal should be to maintain/improve the nutritional status of individuals without bias or judgment on their choices to obtain essential nutrients.

Dietary supplement use can improve micronutrient intake and status, eg. serum α-tocopherol concentrations. Kang and colleagues report dietary supplement use among Korean children and adolescents improves micronutrient status.

Ultimately, both food and nutrition insecurity need to be solved.

Main Citation

Katre P, Joshi S, Bhat DS, Deshmukh M, Gurav N, Pandit S, Lubree H, Marczewski S,  Bennett C, Gruca L, Kalyanaraman K, Naik SS, Yajnik CS, Kalhan SC. Effect of multi-nutrient insufficiency on markers of one carbon metabolism in young women: response to a methionine load. 2015 EJCN doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.155

Other Citations

Taillie LS, Afeiche M, Eldridge AL, Popkin BM. Increased snacking and eating occasions are associated with higher energy intake among Mexican children aged 2-13 years. 2015 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/jn.115.213165

Wallace TC, McBurney M, Fulgoni VL. Multivitamin/mineral supplement contribution to micronutrient intakes in the United States, 2007-2010. 2014 J Am Coll Nutr doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.846806

McBurney MI, Yu EA, Ciappio ED, Bird JK, Eggersdorfer M, Mehta S. Suboptimal serum α-tocopherol concentrations observed among younger adults and those depending exclusively upon food sources, NHANES 2003-2006. 2015 PLoS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135510

Kang M, Kim DW, Lee H, Lee YJ, Jung HJ, Paik H-Y, Song YJ. The nutrition contribution of dietary supplements on total nutrient intake in children and adolescents. 2015 EJCN doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.156