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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Archive for 'February 2016'


    Malnutrition Negatively Affects Hospital Outcomes

    Depending where you live, the prevalence of malnutrition varies. In the US, the prevalence of clinical deficiencies are: vitamin B6 (10.5%), vitamin D (9.5%), vitamin C (6%), and vitamin B12 (2%). Among women 12-49y, 9.5% are iron deficient. These are nationally representative, free-living, apparently healthy individuals.

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    Vitamin B12, the Microstructure of the Hippocampus, and Learning in Older Women

    Vitamin B12 is required for the proper functioning of the brain. There are various ways in which an adequate vitamin B12 status supports neurological function. Vitamin B12 is required for the synthesis of DNA building blocks, and the integrity of DNA, and has epigenetic effects on DNA methylation in the brain. Clinical vitamin B12 deficiency causes neurological symptoms: fatigue, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, confusion and poor memory. But, can low-normal levels that are above normal deficiency cut-offs also be associated with problems with learning and memory?

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    Using Donor Human Milk in Very Low Birth Weight Infants

    TalkingNutrition has written before on the topic of donor human milk for healthy, term infants. Now, a study from Kantorowska and co-workers has been published looking at the effect of introducing a donor milk program for very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. VLBW infants are defined as having a birth weight of less than 1500 g and make up 1.4% of births in the US, or around 20 million births worldwide.  The most common cause of low birth weight is preterm birth, and VLBW is generally seen in infants born before 30 weeks of gestation, although intrauterine growth restriction is also a cause. How can donor human milk help these infants?

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    Evidence that Inadequate Multivitamin-Mineral Status Affects Metabolism

    Vitamins have many functions and sources. A common function is to be part of an enzyme involved in a metabolic reaction. The brain is particularly metabolically active. In 2002, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 130 grams of carbohydrate were needed daily to provide sufficient glucose for the brain to function.  Thinking requires energy. So it is not surprising to read that increasing one’s intake of vitamins and minerals might impact metabolism and the brain.

    In a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-groups study of 97 healthy females, Kennedy and colleagues studied the effect of increasing doses of multivitamins/minerals 

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    Infant’s Vitamin D Status Depends upon Mom

    One of the most exciting moments, and frightening (at least the first time), is learning you are about to become a parent.  The period  from conception to 2 years of age is known as the “first 1,000 days of life”. Mounting evidence suggests a child’s life is profoundly affected by experiences during this 1,000 days. 

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    Using Plant Leaf Proteins as a Source of Dietary Protein

    The planet’s resources are limited. As the world’s population increases, scientists are looking into new ways to reduce food waste,  and maximize the value of agricultural production. A common theme is the transformation of what is traditionally seen as waste into a new and valuable product, a little like how we can collect kitchen scraps to turn into compost, or use spent coffee grounds to grow gourmet mushrooms. One waste product that is produced in enormous quantities worldwide are the plants left over after crops have been harvested. Think about the leaves of corn, wheat, rice, millet or sugar beet. While these leaves and stalks can simply be left to decompose in the field, or alternatively animals can be allowed to graze on the plants, the plant matter also contains useful compounds such as cellulose that can be converted into bioethanol, and plant protein for human or animal nutrition.

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    Nutrient Density, Healthy Eating Patterns, and Dietary Guidelines

    Skipping meals is never a good idea when one wants to eat a balanced diet, rich in vitamins and minerals. Lunch is an important source of nutrients for school-aged children. New data from 4,755 children and adolescents (NHANES 2009-2012) finds that missing lunch is associated with lower micronutrient intakes

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    Nutritional Differences Between Organic and Conventional Meat

    The main concept behind organic farming was put to paper by English agriculturalist Lord Northbourne. he wrote about the farm as having a “biological completeness” with a “balanced organic life” with the plants, soil and microorganisms forming an “organic whole”  in his book Look to the Land written in 1940. The farm was seen as a complete living organism, rather than merely a location where a product was made. The ideas presented in his book eventually led to the various forms of organic food production. 

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    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Milk Composition and Human Health

    Feb 16, 2016 Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Milk Composition and Human Health

    New research is suggesting that the nutritional value of milk depends if cows are fed organic or conventional feedstuffs. One researcher claims that “a switch to organic fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products would provide significantly higher amounts of dietary antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids” whereas another concludes the 1.5% increase in our total diet is small and not likely to make a difference.  Let’s discuss these findings

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    Objective Measures of Food Intake and Nutrient Status

    Grammy was right. We are indeed what we eat. It is easier to measure with some nutrients than others. The bathroom scales clearly indicate if my physical activity isn’t compensating for my food consumption.  Even when my memory (or perception) fails to recognize the extra slice of pizza that I ate for lunch, or the chocolate chip cookie, the scales do not.

    Food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) and fasting blood, adipose, and overnight urine samples were collected from Adventist Health Study-2 participants. 

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    Micronutrient Supplementation and Children Living in Impoverished Environments

    Children under 5y of age are particularly susceptible to anemia, infections, and diarrhea. Children from the poorest households are nearly twice as likely as their counterparts to die before their 5th birthday.  

    Nutrition and sanitation are key elements to slow, and hopefully stop, cycles of poverty and disadvantage. Nutritional supplements in the form of micronutrient powders (MNPs) or ready-to-use-foods (RUTF) can help provide young children with essential vitamins and minerals. MNPs can be added to food prepared for infants and young children.

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    European Vitamin D Pandemic is Solvable

    A pandemic is occurring in Europe. A pandemic is a worldwide epidemic, covering  a very wide area, and crossing international boundaries. It affects a large number of people. In fact, 13% of Europeans are vitamin D deficient (<30 nmol/L).

    In the first multi-nation report using standardized serum 25(OH)D data, from a wide range of ages (children, adolescents, adults and elderly adults) in 55,844 individuals, Cashman and colleagues  identify enormous numbers of Europeans from southern and northern locations are at risk of metabolic bone disease. 

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    Is the Liver being Affected by the Double Burden of Hidden Hunger and Overnutrition?

    Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in North America. Yesterday, I discussed the prevalence of suboptimal vitamin E status and its role in maintaining normal liver function.  With more and more people being overweight and diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the prevalence of NAFLD is increasing

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    Could Trends in Metabolic Syndrome be Associated with Vitamin E Status?

    Good news! Nationally representative data collected between 1999 and 2012 finds a reduction in the severity of metabolic syndrome among US adolescents. It was a linear trend. Interestingly, increasing unsaturated fat intake was beneficial. You may ask why.

    Vitamin E is found in many foods (in small quantities) but most often in association with unsaturated fats – vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds – to protect them from oxidation. In brief, people eating more unsaturated fat will likely be consuming more vitamin E. 

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    Circulating Carotenoid Concentrations, Disease Risk, and Genetics

    Scientific interest in antioxidants seems to be waning – for no apparent reason. If anything, limited consumption of vegetables (and fruit) should be driving consumer and researcher interest. Why? Because previous studies have found maintaining high concentrations of serum carotenoids may protect against heart attacks, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease mortality.

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    Looking for an Indulgent Carbohydrate? It is Dietary Fiber

    Did you eat enough dietary fiber today? Hoping so. In the effort to maintain a healthy weight, conversations involving energy balance swirl around physical activity and sources of calories. Alcohol provides empty calories. Too much protein challenges kidneys and grain proteins contain gluten.  Fats are so calorie dense (>2x proteins and carbs). Last but not least, carbohydrates, too often consumed as sugar. We forget that dietary fibers are a form of carbohydrate. High fructose corn syrup and added sugars are often vilified as the evil causes of obesity and diabetes.

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    Measuring Optimal Vitamin D Status

    Vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH) interact to regulate calcium metabolism, bone turnover and bone mineral density.  PTH stimulates the conversion of 25(OH)D3 by the kidneys to the active form  which increases the active absorption of calcium by the intestine. Treatments for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women target metabolic pathways involving parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion to stimulate bone formation and resorption

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    A Sunscreen That Allows Vitamin D Production

    It’s one of those evergreen vitamin dilemmas. Does one apply sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, or leave it off to let the skin make its own vitamin D, with the risk of sunburn? Finally, a research group led by Kockott seems to have provided the perfect solution, with a publication a couple of days ago looking at “optimizing” a sunscreen to maximize vitamin D production whilst minimizing the risk of sunburn. The Daily Mail reports that a sunscreen developed via this principle is already on sale. 

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    Who Wants to be a Statistic? Follow Expert Recommendations

    The majority of health costs globally are spent treating rather than preventing sickness.  Vaccines are effective  preventions against a range of communicable diseases whereas nutrition prevents non-communicable diseases. Based on proven effectiveness, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice has made recommendations for vaccinations, now up to 17 vaccine programs, since 1964. Similarly, Dietary Guidelines, first issued in 1980, identify nutrition-related public health nutrition concerns and provide guidance to help people eat a healthier diet. Reviewed and updated every 5 years, the most recent are the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

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    Ever Thought of Drinking Water as a Source of Iron?

    When listing foods that are high in iron, a few spring to mind: liver, lean beef, green leafy vegetables, beans and lentils, fortified foods. Less well known yet rich sources include shellfish such as clams, molasses, soy flour and dried apricots. I am also keen to mention here that chocolate contains reasonable amounts of iron, with a 50 g quantity of dark chocolate containing 4 mg of iron, roughly the same amount as a beefy Big Mac. However, with iron requirements being rather high, especially for women aged 19-50 and pregnant women even more, adequate iron intakes depend not so much on the intake of a few high-iron foods, but rather the iron content of the entire diet. Other foods, such as bread and pasta, also contain reasonable levels of iron but their role in total iron supply is often overlooked in favor of the famous high-iron foods.  For example, the consumption of iron-fortified breakfast cereals has made an important contribution to helping people in the US meet iron intake requirements over the past decades, according to data from the USDA.

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