HEALTH

Vast majority of pregnant women lack optimal nutrition in their diet

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH — Women who are pregnant are not likely to have a diet optimal to that pregnancy, according to a study published Friday in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Many healthy maternal diets have been linked to reduced risks of preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, preeclampsia and maternal obesity.

"Unlike many other pregnancy and birth risk factors, diet is something we can improve," stated lead author Lisa Bodnar, associate professor and vice chair of research in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology. "While attention should be given to improving nutritional counseling at doctor appointments, overarching societal and policy changes that help women to make healthy dietary choices may be more effective and efficient."

Bodnar and her colleagues analyzed the results of questionnaires completed by 7,511 women who were between six and 14 weeks pregnant and enrolled in The Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers to Be, which followed women who enrolled in the study at one of eight U.S. medical centers.

The women reported on their dietary habits during the three months around conception.

The diets were assessed using the Healthy Eating Index-2010, which measures 12 key aspects of diet quality, including adequacy of intake for key food groups, as well as intake of refined grains, salt and empty calories (all calories from solid fats and sugars, plus calories from alcohol beyond a moderate level).  When scores were broken down into the 12 aspects of diet, fewer than 10% of the women met the dietary guideline for the whole grains, fatty acids, sodium or empty calories categories.

Approximately 34% of the calories the women consumed were from empty calories. Top sources of energy were sugar-sweetened beverages, pasta dishes and grain desserts.

"Our findings mirror national nutrition and dietary trends," Bodnar suggested. "The diet quality gap among non-pregnant people is thought to be a consequence of many factors, including access to and price of healthy foods, knowledge of a healthy diet and pressing needs that may take priority over a healthy diet," she said. "Future research needs to determine if improving pre-pregnancy diet leads to better pregnancy and birth outcomes. If so, then we need to explore and test ways to improve the diets for everyone, particularly women likely to become pregnant."
 

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HEALTH

Vitamin D deficiency cripples elite athletes, study finds

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO — More than half of college football athletes participating in the NFL Combine had inadequate levels of vitamin D, and this left them more susceptible to muscle injuries, according to a study at Hospital for Special Surgery.

"Vitamin D has been shown to play a role in muscle function and strength," stated Scott Rodeo, senior investigator and co-chief emeritus of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at HSS. "While most prior studies have focused on the aging population as the group most likely to experience the harmful effects of inadequate vitamin D, few reports have looked at the impact on muscle injury and function in the high performance athlete."

Rodeo and colleagues set out to determine if there was a relationship between serum vitamin D levels and lower extremity muscle strains and core muscle injury, or "sports hernia," in college football players. The study included athletes participating in the National Football League Scouting Combine, where coaches, general managers and scouts evaluate top college football players hoping to make it into the big leagues.  

The study, presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting on March 16, included 214 college athletes who took part in the 2015 combine. Baseline data was collected, including age, body mass index, injury history and whether they had missed any games due to a lower extremity muscle strain or core muscle injury.  

The average age of the athletes was 22. Their vitamin D levels were determined with a blood test. A total of 126 players (59%) were found to have an abnormal serum vitamin D level, including 22 athletes (10%) with a severe deficiency.  Researchers found a significantly higher prevalence of lower extremity muscle strain and core muscle injury in those who had low vitamin D levels. Fourteen study participants reported missing at least one game due to a strain injury, and 86% of those players were found to have inadequate vitamin D levels.

"Our primary finding is that NFL combine athletes at greatest risk for lower extremity muscle strain or core muscle injury had lower levels of vitamin D. This could be related to physiologic changes that occur to muscle composition in deficient states," Rodeo explained. "Awareness of the potential for vitamin D inadequacy could lead to early recognition of the problem in certain athletes. This could allow for supplementation to bring levels up to normal and potentially prevent future injury."

While the findings are significant for high performing athletes, there may be a message for the general population as well, according to Rodeo. Adequate vitamin D is essential for musculoskeletal structure, function and strength. But by some estimates, more than 40% of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D.

Sometimes called the "sunshine vitamin," it is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. Sun avoidance and the use of sunscreen may in part account for low vitamin D levels in the population. Milk and fortified foods, including orange juice and some cereals, can also provide vitamin D, but one would need to consume a large amount of these foods. When individuals are found to have a deficiency, vitamin D supplements are usually recommended.

"Although our study looked at high performance athletes, it's probably a good idea for anyone engaging in athletic activities to give some thought to vitamin D," Rodeo said. "Indeed, adequate levels of vitamin D are important to maintain good muscle and bone health in people of all ages."

 

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AliveCor incorporates AI into consumer diagnostics offering

BY Michael Johnsen

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – AliveCor on Thursday announced the U.S. release of Kardia Pro, an artificial intelligence-enabled platform for doctors to monitor patients for the early detection of atrial fibrillation.

“To manage heart disease and stroke risk, leading cardiologists want to see more than just ECGs from their patients,” stated Vic Gundotra, AliveCor CEO. “Kardia Pro tracks important measures of physiology like weight, activity and blood pressure, and, for the first time, AI technology is used to create a personal heart profile for each user, enabling user identification," he said. "The new platform enables doctors to be better doctors and patients to be more active participants in their own heart health, driving healthcare forward into the 21st century.”

The company also announced $30 million in new funding, led by Omron Healthcare and Mayo Clinic, fueling the company’s mission to improve the quality of care in the fight against heart disease and stroke. AliveCor will use the additional capital to accelerate innovations in heart health and continue the rapid expansion of the business.

“We are establishing new partnerships to redefine the role of technology in heart health as part of our Going for Zero mission," noted Ranndy Kellogg, Omron Healthcare CEO. "Partnering with AliveCor advances our path forward to build robust software programs that play a dynamic role in expanding heart health awareness, transforming the patient and caregiver dynamic and taking real steps toward eliminating heart attack and stroke.”

AliveCor’s AI technology will make it easier for doctors to detect changes early and practice preventative medicine.
 

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