From the Director

Balz Frei, Ph.D.
Director & Endowed Chair
Linus Pauling Institute
Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics

Photo of Balz Frei

In early April, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) released the new recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for antioxidants and related compounds, namely vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene. This newsletter contains a response and position statement by the Linus Pauling Institute on the new RDAs. LPI Principal Investigator Maret Traber and I have been involved in the lengthy process leading up to these new RDAs—Dr. Traber as a member of the Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds of the FNB and me as a consultant to the Panel on vitamin C. While I am pleased that the FNB has raised the RDAs for vitamins C and E, I believe the Board has missed an opportunity to make a more decisive statement. As in 1989 when it published the last RDAs, the FNB again based its recommendations on the prevention of deficiency disease, rather than the prevention of chronic diseases and optimizing health.

Recently, vitamin C has been in the news in other ways as well. One report widely publicized in the news media claimed that vitamin C supplements accelerate hardening of the arteries, thus increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Another report on the accumulation of vitamin C in cancer cells theorized that it may counteract the effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy. LPI issued a news release in response to one of these reports that cited our study published in the medical journal Lancet showing that daily vitamin C supplements of 500 milligrams lower blood pressure in mildly to moderately hypertensive patients. Responses to both of these negative reports are contained in this newsletter and are posted on our website.

I am very pleased to report that LPI Principal Investigators Tory Hagen and Roderick Dashwood have been awarded grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Dr. Hagen will study the causes of heart failure and how the age-related decline in heart function may be slowed or reversed by supplementation with the micronutrients acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid. Dr. Dashwood will explore the mechanisms by which cooked-meat mutagens cause colon cancer, which will lead to a better understanding of how dietary constituents and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables or tea can protect against cancer. Additionally, Dr. Traber received grants from Oregon State University and the Natural Source Vitamin E Association to purchase a mass spectrometer, a sophisticated scientific instrument that will be pivotal in her investigations of the metabolism and physiological role of vitamin E in humans.

We are pleased to announce a conference next year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Linus Pauling's birth. The conference, "Diet and Optimum Health", will take place in Portland, Oregon, from May 16 to 19, 2001, and feature scientific sessions as well as a series of talks on nutrition and health geared toward the general public. Everyone is encouraged to attend!

The LPI recently awarded two new pilot project grants. LPI affiliate investigator and OSU Distinguished Professor George Bailey will study the mechanisms of cancer formation in trout and the protective effects of ellagic acid and chlorophyll. Ellagic acid is a phytochemical present at high levels in raspberries, strawberries, and walnuts that has been proposed to lower cancer risk. Chlorophyll, the pigment in green leafy vegetables, has been proposed previously by Dr. Bailey to have anticancer activity. Dr. Bailey seeks to confirm and understand the mechanisms of this cancer chemopreventive activity. The other pilot project grant went to Dr. Deborah Bella, a Research Associate in LPI. Dr. Bella will study how vitamin E in the diet affects the regulation of a liver protein responsible for incorporating the vitamin into lipoproteins, thus making it available to the tissues and organs in our body.

Finally, the LPI recently hosted the third public lecture in our continuing series at OSU. Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University discussed vitamin requirements for optimum health in older adults. Dr. Blumberg explained that older adults often do not get enough vitamins and micronutrients because their overall food intake is diminished, yet at the same time their vitamin requirements are increased due to age. An alarming number of American adults, especially older adults, do not meet the RDA requirements. For example, only about 20% of the elderly get the RDA for vitamin E. Only about 70% get the RDA for vitamin C. Another important factor that contributes to vitamin deficiencies in older adults is atrophic gastritis, an often undiagnosed condition in which the stomach does not produce enough hydrochloric acid. As a result, absorption of certain B vitamins, such as folic acid and B12, is impaired. Such deficiencies, however, can be easily overcome by taking supplements. Dr. Blumberg recommended the following vitamin supplements for the elderly: 700 International Units of vitamin D, 200 to 400 IU of vitamin E, 800 micrograms of folic acid, 100 to 400 micrograms of vitamin B12, 25 milligrams of vitamin B6, and 250 to 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C.

Last updated May, 2000

Honoring a Scientific Giant with Nutritional Research Toward Longer, Better Lives

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