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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nutrition Noteworthy

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Vitamin C and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

Although experimental studies show substantial evidence for a role of dietary antioxidants in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, findings from epidemiological studies for a protective effect of vitamin C have been inconclusive. Cross-cultural studies have shown evidence that low plasma concentrations of vitamin C may increase risk of coronary heart disease and may possibly play a protective role in preventing manifestations of existing coronary artery disease. However, other studies have shown that low plasma concentration of vitamin C is not associated with increased risk of atherosclerotic disease. The disparities observed in several epidemiological studies has led to a lack of consensus as to whether vitamin C does indeed play a role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, as proposed through experimental evidence. Although many of these studies suffer from the limitations of observational studies in populations, they provide impetus for further exploration in conjunction with experimental studies to determine vitamin C's role in disease prevention.

Dehydration of the Elderly in Nursing Homes

Research findings show that the elderly in nursing homes are receiving inadequate amounts of fluid intake to sustain health and prevent dehydration. Research reveals that a great percentage of the nursing home residents are not receiving the minimum fluid intake requirement of 1,500 mL/day. Given that this population is predisposed to dehydration as a result of aging, inadequate fluid intake places the elderly at greater risk for dehydration and even death. Examining dehydration in the elderly not only forces investigators to examine the health of the nursing home population, but also the quality of care that is received.

The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Socioeconomic Status: It's Not What You Think

Many people (incorrectly) believe that eating disorders (ED) are more prevalent in the higher socioeconomic status (SES) groups. Studies conducted in the 1960s and 70s corroborate this statement; however, their methods may have biased the results. Recent studies using health questionnaires distributed to large heterogeneous populations have shown that EDs equally effect all people, regardless of SES. These studies have also demonstrated that females of the lower SES group report higher rates of disordered eating behavior (vomiting, use of diet pills, diuretics, or laxatives as a means to lose weight). Girls that exhibit disordered eating behavior are more likely to develop EDs later in life. Physicians need to be aware of this knowledge in order to screen patients for the signs of EDs. More research is necessary to understand why females of low SES employ such methods of weight loss.

The Cognitive Effects of Iron Deficiency in Non-Anemic Children

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, and millions of children with non-anemic iron deficiency are not detected by standard hematocrit screening. This paper looks at the possible cognitive effects of iron deficiency in non-anemic children. Overall, it seems likely that iron deficiency without anemia can impair intellectual abilities and school performance. Conflicting evidence surrounds whether these effects are permanent or treatable. Evidence does not strongly support impaired motor functions in these children. These results are supported by animal studies and iron deficiency anemia research. However, because of the small number of studies on non-anemic children, and the large number of confounding variables in human studies on iron deficiency, these conclusions must be taken with some skepticism until more research can be accumulated.

Reviewing the Evidence: Does Fish Consumption Reduce the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Myocardial Infarction?

The question of whether omega-3 fatty acids present in fish reduce cardiovascular risk is controversial. Numerous in vitro studies have demonstrated that fish oil is associated with cardiovascular benefits, but clinical studies have been inconclusive. In particular, several prospective epidemiological studies have shown that men who eat some fish have decreased incidence of death from myocardial infarction compared to men who eat no fish. In addition, increasing fish intake was correlated with decreased risk. At the same time, other studies have failed to show a correlation between consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish and coronary disease in men. While in these studies men who reported no fish consumption had the highest risk of fatal coronary disease, increasing fish intake was not associated with fewer deaths due to myocardial infarction. Further research involving randomized, controlled clinical trials is required to determine possible beneficial effects of fish oil in order to make dietary recommendations.

Weightlessness and Weight Loss: Malnutrition in Space

Most astronauts in orbit suffer physically during space flight, experiencing weight loss, muscle atrophy, bone mineral density depletion, fluid loss, motion sickness, olfactory and gustatory changes, and radiation damage. While these physical changes are minor in short space missions, astronauts in compromised health will be unable to complete, or will fail to recover from, more lengthy spaceflights. It is imperative that astronauts maintain health while in microgravity, particularly by maintaining a positive energy balance. Finding nutritional countermeasures to the physiological and logistical challenges imposed by microgravity will not only allow space exploration to go beyond Earth's orbit, but it will provide information about important health concerns on Earth as well.

Immigrant Chinese Medicine: Impact on Western Medicine

Increasing popularity of Chinese traditional medicine has resulted in an explosion of herbal product marketing. Such surge in popularity has resulted rampant marketing abuse by manufacturers who has taken advantage of the absence of herbal regulation. Most of the available information provided by the manufacturers is biased towards the therapeutic aspect of the remedies leaving the American public unwary of the potential toxicity that could result from the herb/herb and herb/drug interactions. The situation is further aggravated by the placement of herbal medicine under the category of seemingly benign dietary supplements. In addition, disturbing news of contaminations and herbal substitutions all point to the need for a new parameter set up by the government. Then again, the potential devastation on the baby herbal industry caused by the new regulations is an issue that needs contemplation.