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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Could Nutrition Assessment Innovations End Food Fights and Reduce Health Costs?

By Michael McBurney

A provocative viewpoint discusses obstacles to the development of cost-lowering health technologies. Basically, the authors suggest that venture capital focus on investment returns is hampering innovation. To make their case, Kellerman and Desai discuss a one-a-day miracle pill. They could have used a more realistic possibility – nutrition assessment.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee identified 9 shortfall nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and potassium) despite the fact that two-thirds of all American adults (nearly 155 million individuals) are overweight or obese and roughly 50% (117 million individuals) have one or more preventable, chronic disease.

Five of the shortfall nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin C, and folate) have been biochemically quantified (see the  CDC Second Nutrition Report). Other nutrients of interest (vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, zinc) can also be measured. In all cases, investment is needed to develop rapid, less invasive, cheaper diagnostic tools.

Think of the health cost savings if more people, regardless of their BMI, knew their vitamin status. We could prevent hidden hunger.

Information is power. With a diagnosis of iron anemia, individuals are given advice on foods rich in iron and/or to use an iron supplement. It is their choice, Any of the choices, heme-rich red meat, on-heme vegetarian foods, or iron supplementation, in isolation or combination, can remedy iron deficiency. It is the individual’s choice and follow-up diagnostic testing can confirm their status.

When vitamin D deficiency is identified, individuals can consume more vitamin D rich foods, use a vitamin D supplement, and spend more time in the sun. 

Adequate nutrition promotes health and reduces nutrient-related health costs. Easily accessible, minimally-invasive, inexpensive diagnostic tests can help individuals monitor nutrition status and be in control of their health. It is common medical practice for individuals with dysfunctional lipid and glucose regulation.

While a miracle pill to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction sounds futuristic, investments in the development of minimally-invasive, rapid nutrient-specific diagnostics tools (eg. vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12) have the potential to transform the diet and health dialogue.

Why struggle with competing food belief systems (and misperceptions) when objective, quantitative assessments of nutrition status could identify ‘shortfall’ vitamins and help individuals monitor their status?

Main Citation

Kellerman AL, Desai NR. Obstacles to developing cost-lowering health technology: The inventor’s dilemma. 2015 JAMA doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.10114

Other Citations

Lee S, Oncescu V, Mancuso M, Mehta S, Erickson D. A smartphone platform for the quantification of vitamin D levels. 2014 Lab Chip doi: 10.1039/C3LC51375K

Craft NE. Innovative approaches to vitamin A assessment. 2001 J Nutr 131(5):16265-16306

Schroder TH, Quay TAW, Lamers Y. Methylmalonic acid quantified in dried blood spots provides a precise, valid, and stable measure of functional vitamin B12 status in healthy women. 2014 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/jn.114.194829