SEPTEMBER 2011 - "Health and wellness concepts for the different stages of a consumer’s life" was the title of a presentation by Christina Ehrhardt, global research manager for Cognis Nutrition and Health (North America). This talk was given at theFood Technology, Innovation, and Safety Summit, in Chicago, in May 2011. She gave recommendations for different life stages, and’s coverage is split into two parts. *For Part II of this article, titled “Nutrition for the Health and Wellness Lifecycle: Nutrient Needs for Teenagers, Baby Boomers and Seniors,”

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Americans’ Top Health Concerns

Ehrhardt outlined the results of a survey (n=1,005) conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in 2009, which asked consumers their two or three health concerns. The study found, in order of importance (%):

·         Cardiovascular disease – 48

·         Weight – 31

·         Cancer – 24

·         Diabetes – 17

·         Nutrition/diet – 16

·         Exercise – 14

Consumer’s Awareness – Where We Are Today

According to IFIC (2009) data, since 2007, significantly more Americans strongly agree that foods and beverages have benefits beyond basic nutrition, and awareness of many food and health-benefit pairings are at an all-time high. As per previous surveys, Americans remain highly interested in learning more about functional foods, but continue to struggle to incorporate these foods into their daily routine.

Health benefit pairings that experienced the largest increases in awareness comparing 2007 and 2009 included:

·         Omega-3 fatty acids for cognitive development, especially in children: 72 vs. 53%

·         B vitamins for reduced heart disease: 78 vs. 61%

·         Probiotics for maintaining a healthy immune system and digestive health: 71 vs. 54%

·         Folic acid for reduced heart disease risk: 70 vs. 55%

·         Plant sterols for reduced risk of heart disease: 45 vs. 30%

Ehrhardt provided a number of recommendations for nutrition concepts for different life stages of which part 1 of this article will deal with the first two:

1.    Pregnancy, lactation and in utero: Omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid

2.    Years 5-20: Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, Vitamin D, iron

3.    Years 20-40: Omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

4.    Years 40+: Omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, plant sterols, vitamin D, lycopene, B vitamins

Pregnancy and Newborns

credit: Girarte 

Adequate nutrient supply during pregnancy and lactation is essential for the baby’s development and the mother’s health. In an assessment of data from the Pregnancy, Infection and Nutrition Study (n = 2,010) conducted between 1995 and 2000, it was determined that women who take multivitamin supplements prior to conception may have a reduced risk of delivering a premature infant (1).

Vollset et al.reported that high levels of serum homocysteine (Hcy) may be linked to a greater risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as neural tube defects (NTDs) and clubfoot (2). Plasma Hcy values were measured in 5,883 women aged 40-42 years old during 1992–1993 and compared with outcomes and complications of 14,492 pregnancies in the same women reported to the Medical Birth Registry of Norway from 1967-1996. Deficiencies of folate, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, or vitamin B-12 were correlated with elevated plasma Hcy concentrations, which in turn were associated with higher incidence of NTDs, clubfoot and other adverse complications. 

Sufficient folate intake during periconceptual period, the time periods prior to and after a woman becomes pregnant, may protect against neural tube defects (NTD)(3). In a case-control study, women who reported any use of a folic acid-containing vitamin in the 3 months before conception had a lower risk of having an NTD-affected pregnancy. Any level of use in the first 3 months after conception resulted in a lowered risk, as well. Modest reduced risks were noted among non-vitamin users whose estimated daily dietary intake of folate was more than 0.227 mg. Decreasing risk was noted with increasing folate intake from combined dietary sources and vitamin supplements.

Vitamin D may be another nutrient of concern during pregnancy. Adequate levels of the vitamin may reduce the risk of adverse outcomes for both the mother and her fetus. It is a critical nutrient for growing children and its beneficial effects on bone metabolism in all life stages are well-documented. According to NHANES III, 42% of African-American women and 4% of Caucasian-non-Hispanic women in 7 states had low plasma concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D prior to pregnancy(4). The research examined 1,546 African American women and 1,426 white women aged 15–49 years who were not pregnant. Hypovitaminosis D was defined as a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration ≤37.5 nmol/L.

Omega-3 fatty acids appear to decrease the risk of pre-term labor, postpartum depression and mood changes in mothers, as well as support brain and retinal development in the fetus and babies. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3), in particular, is essential for the development of the mammalian nervous system. The content of DHA in brain and retina is much higher than in other organs and increases dramatically in the brain during pregnancy to 18 months after birth. DHA also has an important role in membrane function in the central nervous system. Adequate supply of DHA is crucial for in utero and infant brain development (5).

Recent research on lutein suggests an interesting role in infant development. Newborns are often susceptible to oxidative stress (OS) due to a high metabolic rate and low levels of antioxidant enzymes at birth. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 20 healthy newborns were assigned to receive lutein or placebo at 12 and 36 hours after delivery (6). The results showed that total hydroperoxides, as marker of OS, declined and biological antioxidant potential, as marker of antioxidant power, increased following lutein administration. Lutein supplementation appears to protect newborn from perinatal OS.  

Children and Pre-teens

Moving onto a discussion of the nutrient needs of children and teenagers, Erhardt described the significance ofomega-3 fatty acids to positively affect children’s learning abilities; improve concentration, memory and learning skills. She discussed the research of Richardson and Montgomery (7), which showed that capsules containing n-3 fatty acids (558mg eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, 174mg DHA); n-6 fatty acid (60mg gamma-linolenic acid, GLA) and 9.6mg alpha-tocopherol capsules improved cognitive difficulties associated with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, such as dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity. The results were shown in 117 children (ages 5-12 years) supplemented with 6 capsules/day for 3 months.

Young children may also be at risk of low vitamin D intakes. In November 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doubled the recommended daily intake of vitamin D for infants and children, from 200IU/day (2003 recommendation) to 400IU/day. Using data from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, conducted from 2005-2007, the percentage of infants who met vitamin D recommendations at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.5, 9 and 10.5 months (n=1633) was determined (8). The findings suggested most U.S. infants are not consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D, according to the 2008 AAP recommendation. The authors stressed that pediatricians and health care providers should encourage parents of infants who are either breastfed or consuming infant formula to provide infants with an oral vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin D may improve immunity and reduce the susceptibility of children to environmental allergies. There appears to be an association between low vitamin D levels and allergens. In a sample of 3,136 children and adolescents, allergic sensitization to 11 of 17 allergens was more common in those with vitamin D deficiency, compared to those children with sufficient vitamin D levels of greater than 30ng/mL (9).

Iron deficiency may affect memory or other mental function in teenagers. It is estimated that up to 25% of adolescent girls in the U.S. are iron deficient. A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial assessed the effects of iron supplementation on cognitive function in adolescent girls with non-anaemic iron deficiency (10). Participants were randomly assigned oral ferrous sulphate (650mg twice daily) or placebo for 8 weeks. Post intervention haematological measures of iron status were significantly improved in the treatment group, who also performed better on a test of verbal learning and memory than girls in the control group.

In this presentation, Ms. Ehrhardt provided a summary of literature concerning the effects of several nutrients in pregnancy, fetal development and for infants, children and pre-teens. Nutritional needs differ throughout various life stages. Clinically short- and long-term efficacy outcomes suggest there is increasing evidence for omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, lutein, vitamin D and iron in these physiological conditions and age groups. Work is ongoing to better understand the optimal requirements of these micronutrients for all life stages, although it is clear that important roles in overall health and development have been established.

The second part of this article* provides an overview of this presentation related to the needs in early adulthood, and for baby boomers and seniors, in particular the role of omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), plant sterols, vitamin D, lycopene and B vitamins for reducing disease and improving overall health, will be described. NS


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1.    Vahratian, A, Siega-Riz, AM, Savitz, DA, and Thorp, JM. 2004. Multivitamin Use and the Risk of Preterm Birth. Am J Epidemiol. 160:886–892.

2.    Vollset, SE, Refsum, H,  Irgens, LM,  et al., 2000. Plasma total homocysteine, pregnancy complications, and adverse pregnancy outcomes: the Hordaland Homocysteine Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 71:962–8.

3.    Shaw, GM, Schaffer, D, Velie, EM, Morland,K and Harris, JA. 1995. Periconceptional Vitamin Use, Dietary Folate, and the Occurrence of Neural Tube Defects. Epidem. 6(3):219-226.

3.    Nesby-O’Dell, S, Scanlon, KS, Cogswell, ME, et al. 2002. Hypovitaminosis D prevalence and determinants among African American and white women of reproductive age: third National

Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994. Am J Clin Nutr. 76:187–92.

5.    Lauritzen, L, Hansen, HS, Jùrgensen, MH, et al. 2001. The essentiality of long chain n-3 fatty acids in relation to development and function of the brain and retina. Prog Lipid Res. 40:1-94.

6.    Perrone S, Longini M, Marzocchi B, et al. 2010.  Effects of lutein on oxidative stress in the term newborn: a pilot study. Neonatology.97(1):36-40.

7.    Richardson, AJ and Paul Montgomery, P. 2005. The Oxford-Durham Study: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of DietarySupplementation With Fatty Acids in Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder. Pediatrics.115:1360.

8.    Perrine, P,  Sharma, AJ, Jefferds, MJ, et al.  2010. Adherence to Vitamin D Recommendations Among U.S. Infants. Pediatrics. 125(4):627-32.

8.    Sharief, S, Jariwala, S, Kumar, J, et al. 2011.  Vitamin D levels and food and environmental allergies in the United States: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 127:1195-202.

10.    Bruner, AB, Joffe, A, Duggan, AK, et al. 1996. Randomised study of cognitive effects of iron supplementation in non-anaemic iron-deficient adolescent girls. 348: 992–96.


 *For the second part of this article titled, “Nutrition for the Health and Wellness Lifecycle: Nutrient Needs for Teenagers, Baby Boomers and Seniors,” please