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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'January 2016'


    Football Super Bowl, Bones & Muscle, and Vitamin D

    It goes without saying that vitamin D levels, measured as 25(OH)D3 in blood, decline during winter months. Because vitamin D is essential to maintain strong bones and muscles, Galan and colleagues wanted to know the circulating 25(OH)D concentrations required in the fall to maintain vitamin D sufficiency in professional football players during winter. As expected, vitamin D status was affected by sun exposure (# of cloudy/rainy days, hours in the sunshine, UV index, and skin exposure) as well as skin color.

    With Super Bowl 50 approaching, it is not surprising to see The Wall Street Journal article 

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    More Evidence that EPA+DHA Affect Blood Pressure

    Did you know 32.5% of American adults >20y have high blood pressure and/or are taking antihypertensive medications? That is the most recent data from CDC. In fact, hypertension accounts for 38.9 million visits to the offices of U.S. physician annually. Wouldn’t it be great if these numbers could be reduced?

    Minihane and colleagues  report daily doses of EPA+DHA, as low as 0.7g, can have clinically meaningful reductions in blood pressure. 

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    Vitamin D in Pregnancy, and Childhood Asthma and Wheezing

    The results of two double-blind, randomized clinical trials were published today in one of the most influential medical journals. Both trials randomized pregnant women to a relatively high dose of vitamin D during the second trimester, and reported on outcomes related to childhood asthma and wheezing in their children at three years of age. Both studies found that children born to women supplemented with vitamin D had a lower incidence of wheezing or asthma, however the results were not statistically significant. Even so, both articles stressed that their results were clinically important. What is going on?

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    Pass the Synthetic B Vitamins Please

    Vitamin B12 is synthesized  by bacteria in our gut or obtained by eating meat, dairy, eggs and fish. When people do not eat animal products, vitamin B12 intake can be low. In the blood, vitamin B12 is primarily bound to transcobalamin and transported to cells. Within cells,  vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and its other forms, methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin, serve as cofactors to methionine synthase, an enzyme involved in the methylation of DNA and histone proteins. Vitamin B12  metabolites regulate gene expression and are particularly important for brain development. 

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    A Call to Action: Measuring and Monitoring Nutrient Status

    The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is holding its annual meeting. ILSI North America President Liz Westring opened the meeting calling for transparency and increased focus on integrity and excellence in nutrition science. One of the many global health challenges is an increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity. Unfortunately, social media seems to favor venomous exchanges which undermine meaningful dialogue among stakeholders in government, industry, non-government agencies and academics. 

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    Is Oxidized Fish Oil a Cause For Concern?

    Ever eaten flaxseed and noticed a fishy taste? One of the compounds that gives fish (and some unexpected foods) their characteristic taste  is the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in them. The unsaturated double bonds in the molecule are prone to oxidation, and it is this oxidation that can cause an unpleasant smell. But does this fishy taste indicate a health risk?

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    Omega-3 and the Special Case of the Preterm Infant

    The essentiality of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid for infants’ and children’s brain development is so well established that the strict European Food Safety Authority recently approved a health claim that DHA contributes to normal brain development. DHA starts to accumulate in the brain during the third trimester from about 27 weeks’ gestational age. The fetus obtains DHA from the mother’s circulation, and after birth from breast milk or formula, which should contain DHA. Infants born prematurely are at particular nutrition risk as they do not receive the large transfer of nutrients that occurs in the last weeks of pregnancy (see review on omega-3 requirements in pregnancy from Coletta, Bell and Roman). In a recent review, Brenna discusses omega-3 fatty acids in light of the special needs of preterm infants. 

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    More On Dietary Supplement Purity and Safety

    Another report has just come out about the dietary supplement industry. The 50+ minute video explores some of the issues with how dietary supplements are produced and marketed. How can we ensure that all dietary supplements are safe and effective?

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    Why Worry About GMO Safety?

    To tie into Michael’s post from yesterday, and also a recent conversation with a friend, I want to write today about GMO safety. This is an issue that I first learnt about when studying biology back in the 1990s at university. I worked with bacteria modified by genetic engineering techniques from 2005-2007. Since writing for TalkingNutrition, I have also been brought into contact with consumer concerns about GMOs in food. Many times when I read articles about the safety concerns of GMOs, I wish that the author could pick up a biology textbook and think critically about whether what they are writing makes sense. This is echoed by the results of a fairly recent consumer survey that showed a similar percentage of US adults support the labelling of food containing DNA as support the labeling of foods containing GMOs. 

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    Do Your Dietary Choices Provide Enough Vitamin C?

    When there is a plethora of readily available food, people can be much more discerning in their dietary choices. With bountiful food options and resources, skeptical consumers can be selective. Some may prefer to avoid animal sources of food. Others may utilize home delivery from specialized manufacturers or frequent favorite restaurants with specific promises – locally-grown, vegan, GMO-free, gluten-free, etc.  One of the current hot buttons is genetically-modified plants. CBS Sunday Morning had a great segment on the GMO debate this past weekend. Like the FDA says, I believe foods from genetically-engineered plants and salmon are safe.

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    Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Carotenoids for Life

    Out of  ~600 carotenoids found in nature, ~50 are found in the diet, 14 are detected in human blood, and only 2 – lutein and  zeaxanthin – are selectively deposited in the retina and lens of the eye. Zeaxanthin is concentrated in the macula of the retina whereas lutein is in the periphery. These carotenoids serve as antioxidants, protecting photoreceptor cells against damaging blue light.

    Lutein and zeaxanthin are not made in the body so they have to be obtained from the diet. Major sources for both are eggs and corn. 

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    Ensuring the Quality of Dietary Supplements

    Most dietary supplement manufacturers want to make a product that is safe for the consumer and promotes health. A few produce unsafe products. In the US, the onus of product safety is on manufacturers. Some dietary supplement producers opt for independent testing of their products to ensure product quality and safety. How does this work?

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    Understanding Nutrient Labeling for Dietary Supplements (and Foods)

    If you read or heard that 32% of multivitamin-mineral supplements failed to pass laboratory standards, you shouldn’t be too worried. The report finds that most products are properly labeled. In reality, fewer than 32% are mislabeled. Why?

    The law dictates that supplements (and foods) must contain the labeled amount of nutrients at the end of its shelf life. Prior to the best buy date, percentages on a nutrition facts label may not agree precisely with laboratory analyses for two reasons: 1) product under delivers claimed amount of a vitamin, or 2) product over delivers. Both situations are not necessarily a cause for concern.

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    Fortification Costs are Inconsequential Compared to Alternatives

    Craziness. Just craziness. The thought that foods which aren’t processed, by that I mean foods which are not enriched and/or fortified, are better for you. Don’t believe me? Go to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28 and see for yourself. Looking to buy pasta for dinner? You might be enticed by a whole grain pasta (51% whole wheat and unenriched semolina, NDB_No 20136) versus an enriched pasta (NDB_No 20120). If you read the rest of this blog, it should change your mind. The whole grain pasta has 23 µg folate per cup whereas the enriched variety has 216 µg. Almost a 10-fold difference!

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    Pills / vitamins woman

    Confused about Using Supplements? Don’t Be. Vitamins are Essential

    A week after making New Year’s resolutions, some of us are may be reflecting upon our ability to maintain our resolutions. National Public Radio aired an insightful segment “ Can Psychology Teach Us How to Stick To New Year’s Resolutions” that might help us change our behavior.

    For encouragement, listen to pharmacist Bryan Scott in an interview with 41 NBC (WMGT) from Macon, Georgia. Dietary supplements are important sources of vitamins, minerals and omega-3 for many. 

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    2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Released

    The US Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture announced the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans today. While acknowledging successes in reducing deficiencies of essential nutrients, poor diet quality and physical inactivity are contributing to increased prevalence of chronic diseases. The 8th edition focuses on eating patterns, rather than emphasizing food groups and nutrients as in previous editions. 

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    Overweight Women Found to be Missing Key Micronutrients

    How does one know if they are eating properly? A common approach involves maintaining a food diary and using food databases. To be meaningful, accurate reporting of serving sizes is required. How much butter was on my sandwich? Was it combined with full-fat mayonnaise or a low-fat alternative? Was I physically active today? How many steps did I take today? How many flights of stairs? It can be done, successfully.

    Tracking micronutrient status is even more difficult. Why? When it comes to monitoring our balance between physical activity and calorie intake, we have bathroom scales. Similarly, we need something that measures micronutrient concentrations in blood to have an accurate assessment of micronutrient status. 

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    Vitamin D 101: Follow Recommendations. Measure Status. Adjust Intake Accordingly

    A new vitamin D study is garnering headlines that might cause doubt about the value of older adults using a vitamin D supplement. The  findings aren’t “at odds” with national recommendations. So what should I know?

    Bischoff-Ferrari and colleagues report that fall risk reduction is greatest in those achieving 25(OH)D concentrations between 21-30 ng/mL (52.5-75 nmol/L). During the 12 month study, 121 of the 200 participants (61%) had a fall. The incidence of falls was 48% in the 24,000 IU D3 group, 67% in the 60,000 IU D3 group, and 66% in the 48,000 IU D2+D3 group. 

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    Nutrition: Helping Young Families Grow while being Penny Wise

    Happy New Year! January is a season of looking forward, making resolutions, and planning for success.  It is amazing that a single event, a day on the calendar – January 1, elicits so much emotion.

    I also have wonderful news to share: my nephew and wife have just announced the birth of Adele. Unfortunately, many couples have difficulty conceiving. Approximately 6% of married women 15-44y of age report being unable to become pregnant after 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse with the same partner. In frustration, they seek fertility treatment. 

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