In the last few months, stories from various news outlets (and even from different researchers at Oregon State University) have said:

This is confusing and frustrating for all of us. As is the case with most headlines, when you look more closely at the study details, explanations emerge. We have been gathering information on omega-3 fatty acids for decades and slowly learning about the many, varied, and complex effects of omega-3 fatty acids on health.

When you read the next news headline, consider these important issues:

What intervention or supplement do they use?

Is the study about fish, fish oil capsules, omega-3 supplements, or EPA/DHA supplements? These terms are often used interchangeably but are, in fact, distinct interventions with their own unique composition of nutrients. These different sources of omega-3 fatty acids appear to have distinct biological effects with varying levels of significance.

Omega3s

Fish, fish oil capsules, omega-3 supplements, or EPA/DHA supplements are all sources of certain omega-3 fatty acids, so they have that in common. However, omega-3s are a broad category of fatty acids; some are higher in fish and fish oil supplements, while others are higher in plants and plant oils. Inside the body, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can be converted to the other omega-3 fatty acids, including (but not limited to) the well-known omega-3s EPA and DHA (see Figure). Due to low conversion efficiency, it is recommended to obtain EPA and DHA from additional sources – and marine sources like oily fish are the most common.

 

Since fish is a food, however, it is comprised of a complex mixture of nutrients. Fish contain many of the omega-3s discussed above. In addition, fish provides protein, other fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals – and people who eat fish may also have a different dietary pattern from those who do not.Omega-3 supplements will also have a mixture of fatty acids, mostly from the omega-3 class of fatty acids, providing ALA, EPA, DPA, and DHA among others depending on the source.Fish oil capsules provide some omega-3 fatty acids (depending on the capsule, this could be between 20 to 80% of the total fatty acids), as well as other fatty acids and some fat-soluble vitamins.

Finally, EPA/DHA supplements are concentrated sources of these two specific omega-3 fatty acids but may contain other omega-3s and other fatty acids.

 

What are they measuring?

Pay close attention to the study’s clinical endpoint of interest, such as disease diagnosis, symptom, or clinical event like a heart attack or stroke. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is a very general term, referring to diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels. It is more accurate to discuss the effects of dietary intake of oily fish, fish oil capsules, or a particular omega-3 supplement on cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), stroke, hypertriglyceridemia (high blood lipids), or another specific disease endpoint.

For example, we know that EPA + DHA intake is associated with a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death, likely due to an anti-arrhythmic effect. This is a very specific outcome and a more accurate description of the scientific evidence.

Look at the study details.

fish-oil-benefits
For example, is there a significant change in blood or tissue levels of EPA/DHA in the study participants taking supplements? Are these changes in fatty acid associated with fasting blood triglycerides? If not, then no claim can be made for an association (good or bad) between omega-3 fatty acids and health status. Or, is the study designed to assess disease prevention or disease treatment? A nutrient or supplement that has value in preventing disease may or may not be effective in patients already diagnosed with disease.The methods section of a published scientific study will tell you the form and dose of omega-3 fatty acid that was tested, but this information is often not found in news articles.

 

Do they consult an expert?

Researchers know that omega-3 fatty acids do a lot in the body and have complicated biochemistry. And be forewarned: we are still gathering information and making discoveries — their role in preventing and treating CVD, Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal lipid levels in diabetes, depression, fatty liver disease, and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, is still being investigated.

The Micronutrient Information Center (MIC) article on Essential Fatty Acids presents a review of the science regarding the role of omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease; an update of this article will be posted soon.

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In the meantime, some recommendations for generally healthy adults:

  • It is recommended to consume a minimum of 250-500 mg/day of EPA + DHA, which can be obtained by eating at least 2 servings of oily fish per week or by taking a dietary supplement.
  • The Linus Pauling Institute suggests that if you don’t regularly consume fish, consider taking a two-gram fish oil supplement several times a week. If you are prone to bleeding or take anticoagulant drugs, consult your physician before adding extra fish oil to your diet.

Lastly, feel free to ask us questions about fish oils, omega-3s and other micronutrients. You can contact us here (on our blog), contact us on Facebook, or through our website.

This article was contributed to this blog by Giana Angelo, PhD, a Research Associate and co-author of the Micronutrient Information Center.

 

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A report from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) was published recently (February 25 issue) in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This report focused on the use of vitamin, mineral, or multivitamin supplements for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The conclusions of the task force were largely that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the benefits and harms of most single-nutrient and multivitamin/mineral supplements with respect to prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer, although they did issue caution for vitamin E and beta carotene supplements. For the most part, experts at the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University agree with these findings, and state they are supported by an evidence-based review of the scientific literature on vitamin and mineral supplements.

But do these conclusions mean you should stop taking your vitamins? Not in the slightest.Multivitamins2

One of the key words in the USPSTF report is “insufficient.” Although the report does not thoroughly examine the limitations prevalent in vitamin and mineral supplement trials, researchers at the LPI have already published their conclusions that many large, clinical trials of vitamin supplements employ imperfect or inappropriate methodologies that render them largely useless in determining the real value of these micronutrients on human health. LPI analysis of the literature also shows that the conventional randomized controlled trial (RCT) design – although the “gold standard” to evaluate the effects of pharmaceutical drugs – is strongly biased against showing benefits of essential nutrients.

Unfortunately, the report combines a very diverse set of nutrient interventions together into their recommendations. While a review of the scientific literature can be very powerful when the individual studies are conducted with standardized methodology and endpoints, lumping together studies of completely different designs and datasets leads to a dilution of the power of the all studies involved in the review and significantly weakens the overall conclusions. The USPSTF report acknowledges that limitations exist in the research conducted to date. To quote the report: “A general lack of standardized methods to determine relevant serum nutrient levels, agreement on thresholds for sufficiency and insufficiency, or predictive validity of current mechanistic models further hinders progress in understanding potential benefits of dietary supplements.” In general, this echoes the LPI message, and highlights all of the relevant points (or fatal flaws) that have limited micronutrient research.

FreiSmall

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that much of the US population does not meet intake recommendations for many vitamins and minerals, including the vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, and also calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It is also important to note that when these gaps are addressed by the long-term use of multivitamin/mineral supplements, some disease protection has been found. The largest and longest trial on multivitamin use found a significant reduction in total cancer incidence in male physicians. This RCT also found a significant reduction in total cataract incidence. The fact that these conclusions were reached in a health-conscious group (medical doctors) and conducted with the conventional RCT design suggests that the results of these studies (and the effect of the multivitamin/mineral supplements) may be greater in the general population.

LPI has been on the forefront of supporting the use of multivitamin/mineral supplements to support a normal diet. To quote Balz Frei, director and endowed chair of the LPI: “The persistence of poorly controlled studies within the field of micronutrient research undermines efforts to recommend multivitamins/minerals as a safe, economical, and effective means of promoting health. It not only weakens efforts to fund additional, well-designed RCTs necessary to establish definitive health claims that are desperately needed, but serves to confuse and detract from the real issue of nutritional inadequacies that are of great public concern.” He goes on, saying that: “Taking a daily multivitamin/mineral supplements is a safe, affordable, and simple way to help fill nutritional gaps and improve micronutrient status of Americans. Adequate micronutrient status is needed for normal biological function and metabolism and to support good overall health.”

 

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An article by Paul Offit titled “The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements” has been part of the media blitz surrounding so-called negative claims of vitamin and mineral supplements.

Keep Taking Your Vitamins Blog Version

This article specifically takes excerpts from Offit’s recently published book “Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.”  The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has a different point of view – one that is based on the totality of the evidence, rather than selective claims:

Paul Offit ignores much of the research on vitamins and health. It’s easy to select individual studies that support your point of view, and this appears to be the trap that has snared Offit. Linus Pauling extolled the myriad health benefits of vitamin C, many of which have been validated by studies after his death. For instance, vitamin C has important benefits in cardiovascular health. A comprehensive meta-analysis of 29 randomized placebo-controlled trials has found that vitamin C supplementation reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Juraschek et al., 2012). Hypertension causes about 350,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. each year through heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Vitamin C also improves blood vessel dilation in patients with heart disease or coronary risk factors, such as hypertension, type II diabetes, or tobacco use. Many, but not all, large-scale, long-term epidemiological studies have found that a high intake of vitamin C from diet or supplements and high plasma levels of vitamin C are associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.

Studies on high-dose vitamin C and the common cold have had conflicting results but generally show that vitamin C shortens duration and ameliorates symptoms.

HowToLiveLonger_FeelBetter

Recent studies at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and elsewhere have elucidated the anticancer mechanism of high concentrations of vitamin C achieved by intravenous infusion, a treatment pioneered in the early 1970s by Pauling’s Scottish collaborator, Ewan Cameron. The use of high-dose intravenous vitamin C as adjunctive cancer therapy, revitalized by new molecular and biochemical studies, has benefited many patients. Offit seems to be unaware that the Mayo Clinic researchers gave vitamin C only orally, which, because of limited absorption, cannot produce blood concentrations of vitamin C sufficient to kill cancer cells.

Offit claims that “Pauling believed that vitamins and supplements had one property that made them cure-alls . . . : antioxidant.” Pauling never made such a claim; only a few vitamins have antioxidant properties. The word “antioxidant” does not even appear in the extensive index in his best-selling book, How to Live Longer and Feel Better.

Offit implies that high-dose vitamin C contributed to the death of Pauling and his wife. Pauling died at the age of 93 years, nearly 20 years longer than the average life expectancy for American men. It’s unscientific to ascribe either his mortality or very long life to supplemental vitamin C.

While Offit highlights only negative studies on multivitamin/mineral supplements, observational studies have found that many Americans do not get adequate daily amounts of many vitamins and nutritionally essential minerals, which may be remedied by judicious supplementation. For example, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics has found that more than 40% of U.S. adults do not meet recommended levels, from usual food intake, of vitamins A, C, D, E and K, magnesium, calcium and potassium (Fulgoni et al. 2011). The largest and longest randomized placebo-controlled trial of multivitamin/mineral supplementation has shown that a daily multivitamin/mineral significantly lowers total cancer risk in men 50 years and older. While the observed 8% reduction in risk is modest, such a decrease would have public health significance, possibly preventing up to 130,000 cases of cancer each year in the U.S. alone.

Exterior of Linus Pauling Science Center

For a balanced presentation of the role of vitamins, minerals and other dietary factors in human health, readers would be better served by visiting the online, peer-reviewed Micronutrient Information Center of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, which, unlike Offit, presents the positive and negative studies. Readers will find references and links to the above-mentioned studies, as well as detailed information to help make health decisions to minimize risk and maximize benefit.

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Multivitamins

This week’s (December 16, 2013) headlines stated that adults should stop taking multivitamin/mineral supplements (what some refer to simply as a ‘multivitamin’) as they have no apparent health benefit and may potentially be harmful. We at the Linus Pauling Institute believe that these conclusions are wrong and ignore the totality of the evidence from decades of nutrition research.

Vitamins and minerals are needed by the body to maintain normal cell function, metabolism, and growth. If we don’t get enough of these essential nutrients, normal functioning of the body is impaired and health declines. Current evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows that the large majority of the US population falls short of getting the recommended levels of many vitamins and minerals from their diet. For example, more than 90% of US adults do not meet the recommendations for vitamins D and E; 50-60% do not meet the recommendations for vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium; and more than 40% do not consume enough vitamin C.

To be clear, these recommended levels of vitamins and minerals are the minimum amounts that nutrition research has found necessary to maintain good health. But there is some good news: there is  support that people consuming a daily multivitamin containing the recommended amounts of most vitamins and minerals can fill these nutritional gaps safely, conveniently and at very low cost – less than a nickel a day.

Heart illlustration filled with vegetabls, logo of DOH Conference.

In addition to supporting normal body function, vitamins and minerals also may play a role in chronic disease prevention. For example, the largest and longest clinical trial of multivitamins conducted to date, the Physicians’ Health Study II (PHS II), found a significant reduction in total cancer incidence in male physicians 50 years and older, excluding prostate cancer. Although the declines were not large, if every adult in the US took an multivitamin it could possibly prevent up to 130,000 cases of cancer each year.

The PHS II also found a significant reduction in the incidence of cataracts. These findings of PHS II are consistent with those of several other clinical trials and are even more impressive given the fact that conventional clinical trial designs are biased against showing health benefits of essential nutrients.

Therefore, taking a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement will not only help fill the known nutritional gaps in the average American diet, thereby assuring normal biological function and metabolism and supporting  good health, but may also have the added benefit of reducing cancer and cataract risk (a bonus!) – which no existing pharmaceutical drug can do!  To say the ‘case is closed’ and label multivitamin supplements as useless, harmful, or wasteful is non-scientific and does not serve public health.

To see more of the scientific evidence supporting the use of multivitamin/mineral supplements, see the Linus Pauling Institute news page.

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Although the Linus Pauling Institute has a long-standing, deep relationship with micronutrient research, we also study other compounds for their role in human health and disease. If you ever read nutrition research or see it discussed in the news, you may come across the unusual word ‘phytochemical.’

phyochemicals
Put simply, the word ‘phytochemical’ means ‘chemicals found in plants’ (phyto means plant or plant-derived). However, that is a very poor definition for the compounds that LPI is interested in, since it could apply to virtually anything from a plant. Starches, oils, and sugars, for example, could all be considered phytochemicals by this vague definition. Micronutrients could also be considered phytochemicals, as long as they originated from a plant source. Scientists have a more specific meaning for the word: phytochemicals are classes of compounds that are only found in plants that do not also fall into the category of essential nutrients. In other words, phytochemicals are compounds that we ingest when we eat plants, but they are the parts that aren’t absolutely needed by the body – in other words, they are not nutritionally essential.

 

blueberriesFor example, a blueberry is a fruit that is full of nutrients in both the flesh and skin. However, the skin of a blueberry also contains a class of compounds called anthocyanidins. These are the compounds that give the blueberry its distinctive color. When you eat the berry, your body absorbs the nutritive factors (e.g., sugars, vitamins, and nutritionally essential minerals), but you also consume these non-nutritive anthocyanidins. You can think of them as simply being ‘along for the ride,’ but that would understate their potential.

 

Although the body does not need them to survive, phytochemicals can have health effects. Depending on the specific compound, the dose, and how the body reacts to the compound, some phytochemicals can have positive effects on health, while others may have negative or no apparent effects at all.

 

Many people consider phytochemicals as an ‘extra benefit’ of eating plants. Since plants rely on a wide variety of chemical pathways that do not occur in animals, phytochemicals can come in all different forms. Although many classifications of phytochemicals exist, the list is large and ever expanding. Some estimates have the list of currently known phytochemicals as high as 10,000. However, high-quality studies are available for only a small fraction of these phytochemicals. Thus, phytochemical research is continually growing and becoming more complex every day.

 

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There is much that we don’t understand about phytochemicals. Many of these compounds travel through the digestive tract without ever being absorbed by the body, except in very small quantities. This may mean that many phytochemicals can have an impact on gut health but limited effects inside the body. Additionally, many phytochemicals that are absorbed into the bloodstream are rapidly chemically modified by enzymes, affecting their biological activity in complicated ways. We have included many phytochemicals in the Micronutrient Information Center  if you wish to know more about them and how they work in the body.

 

As a last word, we must add a cautionary note about phytochemical supplements. Currently there is little evidence to recommend any specific phytochemical supplement. Plant-based foods are prominent features of a healthy dietary pattern, but purified phytochemicals provide levels much higher than usual levels that would normally be found in the diet. Many of these compounds may not be accepted as completely safe, so a dose of caution – as always – is warranted.

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Neutrophil and Bacteria
Neutrophil engulfing a bacteria cell. Cathelicidin and other antimicrobial peptides are produced by neutrophils to help kill bacteria.

Part of a healthy immune system involves responding to bacterial invasion. The body has many mechanisms to combat bacteria, including the white blood cells or leukocytes. Several types of leukocytes produce small strings of protein (referred to as peptides) that target invading bacteria. Through a variety of mechanisms, these peptides can associate with a bacterial cell membrane, breaking the cell open and driving it toward death. Collectively, these are known as “antimicrobial peptides”.

One of these antimicrobial peptides is known as cathelicidin. What makes cathelicidin unique among these peptides is that the gene associated with it (known as CAMP for Cathelicidin Antimicrobial Peptide) is regulated by vitamin D. Providing vitamin D to leukocytes promotes the expression of CAMP and to increase their bacteria-killing activities.

Regulation of the CAMP gene, especially in context of vitamin D, has been a central question driving the research of Dr. Adrian “Fritz” Gombart at the Linus Pauling Institute for many years. Recently, he spearheaded an effort at LPI to look for additional small molecules that may work alongside vitamin D to regulate cathelicidin production.

Their two-step approach involved some genetic manipulation in cells. First, they fused the promoter (a region of DNA that regulates expression of a gene) from the human CAMP gene to another gene that makes a protein called a ‘transcriptional activator.’ The transcriptional activator, if produced, then turned on the production of an enzyme called firefly luciferase. The end result is simple: if any compound added to cells activated CAMP, the cells would glow like a firefly.

Fritz in lab

Dr. Gombart and his research team then screened 446 different molecules that are currently being tested in clinical trials by the NIH. At the end of the process they found two molecules that not only promoted CAMP gene expression but also worked in combination with vitamin D! Even more interesting, these compounds were normal dietary components: resveratrol (found in red grapes and red wine) and pterostilbene (found in blueberries).

blueberries

“Out of a study of hundreds of compounds, just these two popped right out,” said Dr. Gombart, who is an LPI principal investigator and an associate professor in the Biochemistry and Biophysics department at Oregon State University. “Their synergy with vitamin D to increase CAMP gene expression was significant and intriguing. It’s a pretty interesting interaction.”

Does this mean drinking red wine and eating blueberries, along with taking vitamin D, will increase your innate defense against invading bacteria? Unfortunately, we don’t know yet. Dr. Gombart’s lab is working hard on determining how these compounds work in the immune system and whether they can boost cathelicidin levels in leukocytes.

There are plenty of other reasons to enjoy a glass of red wine, eat a handful of blueberries, and get your vitamin D. As for improving your immune response, that would just be a bonus!

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When you look at the Linus Pauling Institute website or read a blog or Facebook post from us, you often see the word ‘micronutrient.’ The more you read about us, the more you will see this term. This is not only because many world-renown authorities on micronutrients work at the LPI, but also because we maintain a database of scientifically accurate information regarding the roles of micronutrients in human health and disease, The Micronutrient Information Center (MIC).

micronutrient

Exactly what are ‘micronutrients,’ anyway?

First, a strict definition: micronutrients are compounds that are absolutely essential to growth or maintenance of an organism (‘nutrient’) but may only be needed in small quantities (‘micro’). In other words, small molecules that you absolutely need from your diet or you will get very ill and may risk death. You may only need small amounts of them at times, but that emphasizes how important they actually are. This is in contrast to macronutrients like protein and fats, which are needed in large quantities. Vegetable DOH logo

 

Practically, we use the word ‘micronutrient’ as a general term. It encompasses the two main categories of compounds found in foods: vitamins and nutritionally essential minerals.

Vitamins are a group of organic (meaning they are derived from living things) compounds that are vital for normal functions in cells and the body. Without adequate levels of vitamins in our bodies, cells and tissues work inefficiently, biological processes begin to slow or stop, and deficiency diseases begin to appear.

Fruits and Vegetables for Micronutrients

Unfortunately, the term ‘vitamins’ describes a diverse set of compounds. It is difficult to sort them into categories because one vitamin may serve many roles, although some functions are unique to a particular vitamin that makes it important. So, rather than try to describe them, we feel it is better for you to read about each vitamin individually (as written on the MIC) to understand the biological functions.

Although most vitamins are required in the diet, there is one exception – vitamin D can be synthesized by the skin with energy from sunlight. Since our bodies can produce it, vitamin D is not truly a “vitamin”, but for people who are not exposed to the sun regularly it is a necessary dietary factor.

Minerals are a set of inorganic (meaning they are derived from the earth) compounds that are also found in living things. ‘Nutritionally essential minerals’ is a term that we use for those minerals that are needed to maintain normal biological functions.

Like vitamins, minerals have a diverse array of activities. Often minerals join with proteins to influence enzyme activity, but they also have several other functions, e.g., energy currency in cells, structural features in bone, and components of thyroid hormones.

There are other nutrients and essential parts of the diet that don’t fall under these two categories (e.g., choline, essential fatty acids), and there has been some debate on how to classify these compounds. However, like the vitamins and nutritionally essential minerals, these compounds are included in the MIC if you wish to know more about them and how they work in the body.

logo MIC

It is also worth noting that there a lot of compounds that are not classified as micronutrients, even though people will consume them in foods or as a supplement. Just remember that most micronutrients (with the exception of vitamin D) are essential parts of the diet needed in small amounts, so everything else falls under a different category (e.g., phytochemicals).

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If you want some vitamin C, where do you turn? Most people might say orange juice. So you go to the grocery store — and that’s where it gets complicated.juice aisle

Take a look at fresh-squeezed, raw juice. Despite what you might think, this juice may contain low amounts of vitamin C. One reason is that orange varieties differ in vitamin C and water content, possibly making a very dilute juice. Secondly, crushed fruit contains active enzymes that can start destroying vitamin C as soon as it’s squeezed.

What about commercially available juice that is “Not from Concentrate”? Juice makers go to great lengths to produce a consistent product not seen in the raw juice, using large batches of oranges from a variety of sources and methods to deactivate enzymes in the fruit. However, this juice is also pasteurized, and heat destroys vitamin C! Many manufacturers add back vitamin C to the juice to make up for this loss.

Orange Juice Vitamin CThere is another wrinkle: vitamin C is destroyed not only by heat but also by light and oxygen. Studies have shown that vitamin C continues to disappear in the refrigerator. Further, vitamin C in juice disappears faster when cooled at 50°F (10°C) compared to 40°F (~4°C) or lower. While most home refrigerators are around 35-40°F, those open cases at the grocery store are warmer. Other studies have shown that orange juice packaged in polyethylene or polystyrene can let oxygen inside, causing the vitamin C to degrade over time. Clear plastic containers let in light that accelerates this process as well. And, what’s more, this doesn’t stop once you take the bottle home.

Another option is frozen juice. Frozen orange juice concentrate actually contains the most vitamin C. In addition, freezing stabilizes vitamin C for long-term storage. Good, right?

Disintegrating Ascorbate

Well, not quite. Studies have shown that reconstituted orange juice from concentrate loses vitamin C faster than bottled juice purchased from the store. It is not entirely clear why, but it may relate to the metals in the water used (vitamin C is destroyed faster in the presence of iron and copper), the acidity of the juice (vitamin C degrades when less acid is around), and/or more exposure to oxygen.

Now that you are aware of this, what should you do? While the chemistry is complicated, orange juice is still a good source of vitamin C. Just keep in mind that the loss of vitamin C in orange juice takes time. It may take weeks for it to completely disappear. Fresher is always better.

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At the Linus Pauling Institute, we follow in the footsteps of our founder, Linus Pauling.

Linus Pauling, smiling.

Unusual for a scientist, Dr. Pauling was very outgoing and public-minded. At heart he was a humanitarian dedicated to reducing suffering in the world as best he could. He felt that it was the obligation of scientists to communicate directly to the public—to make their knowledge and research accessible for all to benefit.

Outreach and communication are essential to the LPI mission. Just as we are dedicated to studying the effects of micronutrients and phytochemicals on promoting health, delaying the effects of aging, and treating disease, we are also committed to application of this knowledge. Above all, we hope that the information we provide will help people make informed decisions to lead healthier, more productive lives.

We invite you to start by looking at the Linus Pauling Institute webpage: a portal for everything related to LPI, including information about our faculty members and their research interests, comments on news stories, and our educational efforts—the Research Newsletter, the Micronutrient Information Center, and the Healthy Youth Program.

The semiannual Research Newsletter outlines our current research, accomplishments, and activities. Research articles on micronutrients and phytochemicals are highlighted, and we often talk about the impact of that research on human health. We also publish interviews with LPI faculty members.

The Research Newsletter is free; you can sign up here to get on the mailing list. Or you can find current and past issues online.

logo MICThe Micronutrient Information Center (MIC) is a website that provides scientifically accurate information on the roles of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and some foods and beverages in preventing disease and promoting health. The MIC is freely accessible and contains more than 70 articles on various topics, including micronutrients, phytochemicals, life stages, immunity, cognitive function, and bone health. It is visited by millions of people every year.

HYP logo with Powered by Oranges LPI
The Healthy Youth Program (HYP) is focused on children and families in Corvallis and throughout Oregon; this program has a wide array of activities focusing on nutrition education and healthy living. HYP is currently involved in maintaining school gardens, providing educational information to low-income families and children, and promoting healthy activities in schools.

Our social media presence is new but growing every day. This includes the Linus Pauling Institute blog (that you are reading right now!) and Facebook page.  Here, we present new and interesting views of our research, publications that are making headlines, and micronutrient information that you can use in your daily life. Please feel free to ask questions and post comments!

Exterior of Linus Pauling Science Center

We hope that you will think of LPI as the resource for micronutrient information. And this is just the beginning.You will see a lot more of us in the coming months. Please engage us in discussions about science, health, nutrition, and more.

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Maret Traber with molecular model.“Give me an E!”  You can almost hear LPI Principal Investigator Maret G. Traber rousing crowds to respond with the roar “E!”

That’s because, as one of the world’s leading experts on vitamin E, she is also its most enthusiastic fan.

Traber is the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Micronutrient Research in the Linus Pauling Institute, as well as a professor in the School of Biological & Population Health Sciences at Oregon State University.

And if you find her wearing her white lab coat, you’ll notice embroidered over the pocket an additional title, “Goddess of Vitamin E.”

“I’m not shy,” Traber says. “And I like to have fun with telling the world about science. Our bodies are amazing, and it’s thrilling to discover ways that we can help them stay vibrant!”

With her own vibrant smile and a glint of humor in her eyes, she zips from tanks of zebrafish to a classroom of undergrads to a meeting with collaborators to her prolific lab.

Traber’s perpetual motion has results.

“Her pioneering studies caused a paradigm shift in our understanding of the mechanisms regulating vitamin E bioavailability and metabolism in humans,” said Balz Frei, Director and Endowed Chair of LPI.

Vitamin E has a complex role in human health, and Traber has provided the solid scientific basis for understanding it. Working on answers to problems that have eluded nutrition scientists for the past 100 years, Traber’s research spans the gamut from vitamin deficiency to excess.

Showing that E does not function in the body in isolation, her work has revealed its synergistic action, primarily with vitamin C. For instance, she has shown that adequate supplies of vitamin C can significantly block the depletion of E commonly caused by smoking.

Noting that vitamins E and K are both found in spinach, she says she is “hot on the trail” of how these fat-soluble vitamins work together. Based on what her latest work suggests, she says, “Consume plenty of both.”

Her work has also become the standard by which to examine metabolism of other vitamins.

Her results have wide-ranging implications for various health conditions, including obesity and diabetes. She has also found evidence that E plays a role, with other nutrients, in protecting and enhancing the brain’s function, including possibly reducing the brain shrinkage commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Traber is proactive in bringing scientific knowledge out from the labs to affect daily health practices. For example, serving on the Institute of Medicine Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and
Related Compounds of the National Academy of Sciences, she helped establish our national dietary recommendations for vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids.

Currently, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, she is studying vitamin E requirements for women. Eager to get a message out, she challenges:

“Are you one of the 96% of women who don’t eat diets with enough vitamin E?”

According to the LPI Micronutrient Information Center, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin E for adult men and women is 22.5 International Units per day, and more than 90% of individuals aged 2 years and older in the U.S. do not meet the daily requirement from food sources alone. LPI recommends that generally healthy adults take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement, which usually contains 30 IU of synthetic vitamin E.

Yet Traber says, “Get enough vitamin E by eating well. I don’t mean just lots of fruits and vegetables and a low-fat diet. Make sure you include the specific foods high in vitamin E.”

Major sources of vitamin E in the American diet are vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. [See information on food sources, and more on vitamin E .

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Maret Traber in front of large sign about her work.
At the Congress of IUNS, September 2013, in Granada, Spain

 

Maret Traber’s work has been recognized worldwide by her peers and scientific organizations. On September 17, at the 20th Congress of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, she accepted the prestigious DSM Nutritional Sciences Award for excellence in innovative research that has significantly advanced the world’s understanding and knowledge of key questions relating to vitamin E. Among many other honors, earlier this year she also received the 2013 Pfizer Consumer Healthcare Nutritional Sciences Award from the American Society for Nutrition.

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about Maret Traber

Awards and Honors

 Response about “too much vitamin E”

Response about “overdose of vitamin E”

Vitamin E and prostate cancer

Article: To Conquer Vitamin E


The Linus Pauling Institute is a source  for scientifically accurate information regarding the roles of vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, dietary phytochemicals , and some foods and beverages in preventing disease and promoting health. Link to the  Micronutrient Information Center, where you can also sign up for LPI’s free, semi-annual Research Newsletter and occasional, timely updates.

 


 

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