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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'November 2015'


    Vitamin D Screening Provides Valuable Information

    If you live in the US and have just celebrated Thanksgiving, it is quite possible your waistband feels a tad tighter this Monday. You should also know that increased visceral fat may increase your need for vitamin D supplementation. And shortening daylength in the northern hemisphere isn’t any help.

    Zhang and colleagues randomly selected 1,105 adults living in China. Visceral fat accumulation and serum vitamin D concentrations were measured. Men and pre-menopausal women carrying extra visceral fat were more likely to have serum 25(OH)D3 concentrations below 30 µg/L 

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    Time to Get Real About Preventing Neural Tube Defects in Europe

    Babak and co-workers published an analysis of neural tube defect prevalence in Europe over a twenty year period from 1991 to 2011. The data was obtained from the extensive EUROCAT birth defect registry, which collects data from 43 registries in 23 countries in Europe.  It seems that in the past 20 years, the rate of neural tube defects has largely remained unchanged at around 9 pregnancies affected out of every 10,000. In contrast, rates of neural tube defects has fallen over the same period in the US. What is the difference? 

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    Should Iodine be a Nutrient of Concern?

    Do you know your iodine status? I don’t. In fact, rarely do I even look for the iodine content of a food. For people living in regions where the iodine content of soils and ground water is low, consuming crops grown locally can lead to iodine deficiency. In fact, 26-70% of children living in the Great Lakes, Appalachians and Northwestern regions of the US were iodine deficient with clinically apparent goiters in the early 1900’s. Iodization of salt changed their lives and millions of others. However, salt iodization is only effective if people consume iodized salt.

    Anaforoglu and colleagues studied 864 healthy pregnant women from an iodine deficient region of 

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    A Cautionary Tale on Avoiding Carbohydrates and Unintended Pregnancies

    Countries such as the USA and Canada legislated folic acid fortification of flour to help prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy. Mandatory legislation was important because a baby’s brain stem and spine closes during the first trimester of pregnancy – a time when many women do not yet realize they are pregnant. After the first few months of pregnancy, it is too late to begin supplementation to protect the infant.

    According to the CDC, half of pregnancies in the US are unintended. Unintended pregnancies are those which are mistimed, unplanned or unwanted at time of conception. 

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    Using a Vitamin D Supplement During the Winter can Eliminate one Source of Worry

    As the winter solstice approaches in the northern hemisphere, people living north of the equator need to remember that vitamin D is a nutrient of concern. Without skin exposure to sunlight, people must rely upon dietary intake of vitamin D. Since very few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D and regulatory agencies restrict the categories of foods and beverages which can be fortified, most people will need to supplement.

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    Looking to Maintain a Beautiful Smile? Search no Further

    What do you notice about a person? Is it their hair? Maybe their eyes? Their skin? For me, it is teeth. I notice smiles and especially notice if teeth when are well maintained. For this reason, today’s main citation caught my attention.

    Eighty-six individuals (63 nonsmokers and 23 smokers) with chronic periodontitis were evaluated for healing and reduced probing depth (PD) at baseline and 8-16 weeks after scaling and root planing. 

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    Pills / vitamins woman

    How To Spot an Unsafe Dietary Supplement

    Yesterday, the US FDA announced the results of a widespread investigation into the safety of dietary supplements on the market. The sweep has led to civil injunctions and criminal actions against 117 manufacturers of distributors of dietary supplements. Information about hundreds of supplements that contain hidden or potentially harmful ingredients have been identified. In the most egregious case, the dishonestly named USPlabs, who have produced some widely popular weight loss and muscle building supplements, has received may charges related to falsification of documentation and knowingly placing unsafe products on the market. How can consumers protect themselves from unsafe dietary supplements?

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    Did Your Teenager Eat Recommended Amounts of Essential Nutrients Today?

    Children need vitamins and minerals to grow. Calcium and vitamin D are required to build strong bones and teeth. Omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are needed for brain, eye and immune development and function. Lutein and zeaxanthin and vitamin A are needed for visual development and eyesight. B vitamins are needed to access the energy consumed from macronutrients – carbohydrate, protein and fat. What happens when children are undernourished?

    In a 12 week double-blind randomized controlled trial (RCT), Tamman and colleagues tested the effect of vitamin-mineral and omega-3 supplementation (vs placebo) in 196 children 

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    Balancing Work-Life Stress with Nutrition

    Achieving work-life balance is not easy. Among Millenials (18 to 34y), there is a scarcity of good, stable jobs. Millenials are 3 times more likely to be unemployed that older working-age people.  Gen Xers (35-50y) are mid-career and being squeezed with increasing responsibilities at work and the frantic pace associated with school and social commitments of their children. Baby boomers (the youngest of whom is 51y) face age-related health changes and uncertain financial futures. Stress is too common occurrence.

    Two new Advances in Nutrition reviews highlight the importance of nutrition for well-being. 

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    Vitamin D: Supporting Growth and Development of Future Generations

    With two adult sons, I hope to become a grandparent someday. Because our sons live further north (Canada), today’s research study has me reflecting upon vitamin D recommendations. Over 100 years ago, scientists knew the bones of rachitic children had abnormally low bone mineral density, administering calcium did not prevent the condition, and the disease occurred primarily in large cities (with pollution from burning coal) in northern latitudes.

    Using a cross-sectional analysis from the healthy New Nordic Diet (OPUS) School Meal Study, Petersen and colleagues examined vitamin D status of 782 Danish children (8-11y). 

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    Benefits to Folic Acid Supplementation in Later Pregnancy on Child Cognition

    The recommendation to consume adequate folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy to avoid neural tube defects is well known. Even fairly recently, large-scale clinical trials show that folic acid supplements are effective in preventing birth defects. However, there is less research that has looked into whether it is beneficial to continue supplementation after the first trimester. As folic acid is needed for proper neural development, the domain of cognition seems a logical one for further testing.

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    Micronutrient Status in Vegetarians, Vegans and Omnivores

    Whether to follow an omnivorous, vegan or vegetarian diet is one of those hot-button issues, with fierce proponents on both sides. Omnivores claim that their diet is better as it is less likely to lead to deficiencies in nutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin B12, which can be of concern in vegan diets especially, while vegans point to the lower saturated fat and higher fiber and vitamin C intakes in their diets, and state that they are beneficial in preventing chronic disease and increasing life span. While the jury is still out on whether cutting out all animal products can help us live longer, a group of researchers lead by Schüpback recently compared the diets and nutritional status of 200 Swiss omnivores, ovo-lactovegetarians and vegans to see whether there are differences in intakes and rates of deficiency in a large number of micronutrients. 

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    Supplementing Pregnant Women with Vitamin D to Prevent Newborn Deficiency

    Newborns and breastfed infants are solely reliant on the nutrients that they receive via their mother. Nature attempts to provide good quality nutrition for most babies by making certain adaptations during pregnancy and lactation. Vitamin D concentrations in mothers is highly correlated with that of their neonates and represents a nutrient for which supplementation is likely to be effective. Perumal, Al Mahmud and Baqui describe a study in which they attempt to prevent newborn vitamin D deficiency by supplementing pregnant women during the third trimester of pregnancy. 

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    Minimally Invasive Techniques to Measure Nutritional Biomarkers

    Minimally invasive techniques to measure nutrient status could be far superior to self-reported dietary intake information. Why? Self-reported dietary intake doesn’t correlate very with nutritional biochemical markers. According to Lassale and colleagues, dietary intake data explains less than 14% of the variability in nutritional biomarkers. Probably because we are not very precise in recording food intake.

    When using finger-prick sampling, the very small blood sample may limit the accuracy of assessing nutritional status by biochemical biomarkers. Hoeller and colleagues wanted to know if vitamin D status could be measured by applying a finger prick spot of blood to a filter paper. 

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    Eating More When Nobody’s Watching

    A major pitfall of nutrition research is the difficulty in accurately recording food intakes. All methods have considerable limitations that affect the collection of data and have the potential to lead to under-, over, or misreporting of food consumed, and potentially influence the results and conclusions of nutrition research. A research paper by Archer, Hand and Blair recently stirred up controversy in this field when they found that estimations of food intake over the history of NHANES were not plausible for most participants, especially the obese. Two recent publications looked at this problem: one reports on factors that affect under-reporting of food intakes in children and adolescents (Murakami), and the other investigates the use of a micro-camera to record food intakes (Pettitt). 

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    Vitamin C and Bone Health: Are You Getting Enough?

    Some of the symptoms of the vitamin C deficiency disease, scurvy – sore limbs, bleeding gums, and poor wound healing – are related to one of the roles of vitamin C in the body, namely the production of collagen. Collagen is a structural protein in the body and forms the matrix upon which bone minerals are deposited. Finck and co-workers recently looked at whether vitamin C intake or serum levels in EPIC study participants are associated with measures of bone health in elderly people for this reason. 

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    Antioxidant Vitamins Help Bodies Cope with Stress

    Who can say they live a life free of stress? Very few indeed. Pressures at work, tough physical workouts and less-than-optimal dietary choices can all contribute to oxidative stress. Researchers believe that oxidative stress may increase risk of prostate cancer.

    When we fail to eat the recommended number of servings of green, yellow, and red vegetables, our dietary intake of antioxidants is low. Greater intake of antioxidants is associated with lower concentrations of biomarkers of stress in blood and urine. 

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    Ferritin, Polyphenols and Phytate: The Complex Business of Estimating Iron Absorption

    Iron absorption is notoriously difficult to estimate. In what is sure to be an influential article, Armah, Carriquiry and Reddy estimate total population iron absorption and compare it to a value widely used to reflect iron absorption when creating Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). Can their results explain the widespread iron deficiency anemia that is found in well-nourished populations?

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    Multivitamin-Mineral Supplements, Insuring Nutritional Status and Mood

    Inadequate vitamin and mineral intake can lead to suboptimal vitamin and mineral concentrations that affect metabolic processes in the brain, and therefore mood. In a meta-analysis of 8 RCTs, Long and Benton reported a beneficial effect of multivitamin-mineral supplementation. In particular, high doses of B vitamins may be affective. In 2013, Davison and Kaplan wrote “Nutrient intakes warrant further consideration in the treatment of people with mood disorders.

    In a new study, White and colleagues report on the effect of 4 week trial in 58 healthy, young adults with a multivitamin-mineral supplement

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