New Dietary Guidelines Identify Vitamin Shortfalls
As all manner of nutrition and health professionals have scrutinized proposals for the new Dietary Guidelines, it has become clear—or has it?—that many Americans aren't getting adequate amounts of certain vitamins.
In addition to dealing with imperfect diets, a growing body of research indicates for some physical conditions, multiples of certain vitamins may be effective. Certain vitamins may be consumed in sufficient quantity, but a portion of the population has a reduced ability to use those nutrients. One example is vitamin B12, which is generally consumed in large enough quantity. However, 10 to 30 percent of people over age 50 may be unable to absorb the naturally occurring vitamin.
|Functional Foods Fact Sheet: Antioxidants |
To help improve the public’s understanding of emerging research on functional foods, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation released the first in a series of referenced materials on various food components and their potential health benefits, "Functional Foods Fact Sheet: Antioxidants."
The fact sheet contains information on the health effects, research, and dietary sources of antioxidants; a “bottom line” section summarizes the research and current recommendations. Links to several informational Web sites are also included. The fact sheet is available on the IFIC Foundation Web site at www.ific.org/publications/factsheets/antioxidantfs.cfm.
The committee recommended persons over age 50 should meet their requirement of B12 by consuming fortified foods or by taking supplements. Deficiency of B12 leads to the development of serious anemia. A similar situation exists with vitamin D, in which about a third of consumers over age 50 require more than the RDA of vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. In those cases, larger quantities of the vitamin may be required to avoid rickets and other related diseases. Although still relatively rare, there has been some concern among the medical community that rickets cases may be on the rise.
Where diseases are not specifically considered dietary based, considerable research has gone into determining the effects of specific vitamins and minerals. The value of large amounts of vitamin C came in to question after the late Dr. Linus Pauling recommended doses of up to several grams per day of the antioxidant vitamin to cure heart disease and cancer. His experiments proved difficult to replicate. Some studies even indicate overdoses of C could lead to a number of complications ranging from rashes to a reversal of its antioxidant effect. However, interest in antioxidant vitamins as a curative still remains a valid area of research.
Last year, a team of scientists at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., established that while vitamin C supplements could not be shown to have a significant protective effect over the six-year period of their study, vitamin E supplements at levels greater than 100 IU per day were shown to reduce all-cause mortality 27 to 34 percent, coronary heart disease mortality by 41 to 47 percent and cancer mortality by more than 20 percent.
A key difference to the study was the vitamin E was combined with milk protein. The combination appeared to greatly enhance the vitamin’s absorbability. Vitamin E is fat soluble, and the milk protein apparently assisted to a significant degree.
Similarly, Bausch & Lomb, Rochester, N.Y., completed research indicating the use of dietary supplements could promote retinal health by arresting macular degeneration through the use of a uniquely formulated nutritional supplement. The company developed a supplement in tablet form which contains higher than normal amounts of vitamin C, E, beta carotene, zinc, and copper. The amounts of these nutrients are approximately seven to 10 times the RDA of vitamin C; 13 to 18 times the RDA of vitamin E; six to 10 times the RDA of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene); four to seven times the RDA of zinc; and contain at least 1.6 mg copper.
In these and other cases, the vitamins may be used as supplements or functional foods with specific utility, or as medical foods, to address any shortfalls in vitamins and minerals through inadequate dietary intake.