TNO commissioned to develop new vitamin safety approach

The Dutch independent research organisation, TNO, has been contracted to develop a new approach to determining maximum safe levels of vitamins and minerals for European consumers. The outcome of the research is intended to add to the two existing approaches that have been under consideration by the European Commission since 2007. One was developed nearly 10 years ago by two food supplement industry associations, while the second, proposed by the German government’s food safety watchdog, BfR, has been criticised widely for being unnecessarily restrictive and draconian.

ANH-Intl has been at the forefront of critiquing these existing approaches, and in 2010 published two scientific papers in the peer – reviewed journal Toxicology [1,2] that exposed their weaknesses.

Robert Verkerk PhD, first author of the critiques, executive director of ANH-Intl and lead commissioner of the research project, said: “There is an urgent need for a fresh approach dealing with the EU’s immovable commitment to harmonise maximum levels for vitamins and minerals.” He continued, “While the issue has historically been complicated by great variations in approach taken by different national authorities in individual EU member states, a robust scientific approach has previously been missing. This is the challenge we’re now passing to TNO.

ANH-Intl has sought funding for the research from a diverse range of European stakeholders, including companies and individual practitioners. The pilot project will span 6 months, with the aim of not only developing a generalised approach, but also providing specific outputs for a limited range of vitamins and minerals, including different molecular forms of each. Subject to general and scientific acceptance of the approach to be proposed by TNO, further research will be necessary to establish maximum values for all the vitamin and mineral forms authorised for use in the EU.

Dr Verkerk believes that the results of the new research will prove vital to the European Commission’s forthcoming proposals on MPLs. “We’re thrilled that the TNO scientists agree that a risk/benefit approach is far preferable to the existing risk‐only ones”, commented Dr Verkerk.

Explaining the nature of TNO’s remit further, Dr Verkerk said, “The risk-only approaches tend to push maximum levels extremely low, in an attempt to ensure a near-zero risk of any kind of adverse effect, however mild and transient, in the most sensitive individuals. This is the case even if it means significant benefits are ruled out for the vast majority. By characterising and categorising risks and benefits, and doing this for individual forms of nutrients, risks can be managed far more proportionately. This will likely mean significantly higher maximum levels than those proposed by the existing approaches which ignore benefit and differences between nutrient form.

Verkerk added, “The science has moved on a long way since the other models and approaches were originally proposed. While everyone appears agreed the approach should be science based, it’s also crucial it takes into account the most recent scientific developments. TNO is a trusted research organisation with a great reputation for independent science – and it’s also well regarded by both the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority. We’re confident the output from TNO will go a long way toward providing a valid approach that will then be agreed by scientific consensus.

The main output from the research project will be an article detailing the proposed approach, which is intended to

Be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal at the end of May 2014.

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50 facts!

As part of our special 50th anniversary in July 2012, we brought members 50 of the best, unusual or plain bizarre nutrition facts.

Low or no-fat alternatives are not always a healthier option, as a low-fat fruit yoghurt can sometimes contain eight teaspoons of added sugar.

Members, click here to log in and read the full article

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It’s nearly pumpkin time! Make sure to save the seeds for a nutrient-packed treat.

With a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein and zinc, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped up in a very small package. They also contain plant compounds known as phytosterols and free-radical scavenging antioxidants, which can give your health an added boost.

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How snacking is putting stomach health at risk for a quarter of Brits, according to Gut Week survey

Some food for thought to tie in with this week’s Gut Week. Nearly a quarter of Brits (24%) are putting their stomach health at risk by not eating three square meals a day and instead grabbing snacks twice during the day and once after dinner according to research carried out for Gut Week.

Dr Nick Read, medical advisor to the IBS Network warns that snacking on the go ‘can hinder digestion leading to bloating, abdominal pain and bowel upset’.

Hunter gatherers are evolving into Hunter Grabbers as Brits snack three times a day

Research for Gut Week shows the impact grabbing food on-the-go is having on gut health

The old adage ‘three square meals a day’ might have had its day in favour of a new way of eating, led by a group dubbed The Hunter Grabbers by This refers to a quarter (24%) of Brits who don’t in fact eat three square meals per day, and who grab snacks twice during the day and once after dinner, which could lead to problems with their digestion.

Brits’ daily eating habits have been chewed over to uncover the impact of how, where and the speed at which they eat, to launch Gut Week (19th – 25th August), the national digestive health awareness campaign, now in its 15th year. It seems their speedy, stressful and snacking ways could be having a serious impact on their digestive health.

Going, going, gone

The research reveals many Brits are fast foodies:

  • With 25% spending under 5 minutes on breakfast
  • With 33% wolfing down lunch in under 10 minutes
  • Despite almost a quarter (24%)who cook their dinner at home taking between 31 and 40 minutes to prepare dinner, nearly half (44%) have gulped it down in 20 minutes or less.

The demise of eating meals around a table is more apparent than ever with 35% eating their breakfast in front of the TV, and almost half (44%) eating dinner in the same place. This now common practice can be problematic as people tend to eat more than they usually would as they’re concentrating on the TV, not on what they’re eating. 

Dr Nick Read, physician, psychotherapist and Medical Adviser to the IBS Network comments: “It’s important to allow enough time for digestion and to eat at set times. Rushing to finish a meal or snacking ‘on the go’ can hinder digestion leading to bloating, abdominal pain and bowel upset. Eating just before going to bed impairs sleep and can lead to emotional tension and indigestion the next day.”

Nutritionist Jane Clarke adds: “I’ve seen an increase in people experiencing digestive complaints, which can be really painful and debilitating. The most common causes are people’s lifestyle; we’re under lots of pressure to juggle work and our personal lives, making it hard to switch off, relax and enjoy our food.”

“Altering your posture while you eat, taking your time plus working out which foods agree with you, will give the body the best chance of being able to digest them. More often than not, changing these habits has an immediate effect and within hours the symptoms can disappear.”

Eat, drink and be… stressed

Fewer than one in ten (6%) people enjoy a lunch hour away from work, whilst one in five (21%) eat lunch sitting in front of the computer answering emails. A hunched posture can cause acid reflux and heartburn. Brits don’t help matters by not only eating quickly, but more than one in five (23%) also rush onto the next thing straight away.

“It’s worrying that almost a third of the people surveyed feel stressed and anxious most days” continues Dr Nick Read, “as these feelings can activate the sympathetic nervous system which can increase intestinal sensitivity and cause spasms, bloating and indigestion.”  

Other key statistics

  • People in Sheffield are the slowest breakfast eaters, with an average time of 12.5 minutes, compared to Gloucester locals who have finished in just over 7 minutes
  • Those in Norwich spend the longest making dinner – over 32 minutes. Residents of Portsmouth are rushers – cooking takes only 23 minutes, and they’ve finished their meal in just 15 minutes.
  • The residents of Aberystwyth take over twice as long to eat theirs, at 34 minutes

Top tips for healthy digestion from Dr Nick Read

  • Relax and allow time to eat your meal – if you are rushed or feeling stressed, it can give you indigestion and abdominal spasm.
  • Don’t eat fatty meals if you are in a hurry. Fat takes longer to digest than other nutrients and is more likely to induce pain and make you feel sick.
  • A glass of wine during a meal helps digestion; half a bottle makes it worse as it can irritate the stomach.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise straight after a meal as this can activate the sympathetic nervous system and impair digestion, although going for a gentle stroll can help your meal go down.  

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The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has reported a rise in physical activity levels, however, this is not having the desired effect on obesity, as reported by Human Kinetics.

As physical activity in the US increased between 2001 and 2009, so did the percentage of the population considered obese.

Obesity and risk factors from poor diets, smoking and high blood pressure all are having an adverse impact on US life expectancies, which increased slowly compared to that seen between 1985 and 2010.

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Research by the British Nutrition Foundation has found that 29% of primary school children believe that cheese comes from plants

(29 per cent) of primary school children think that cheese comes from plants, one in ten secondary school children believe that tomatoes grow under the ground, and nearly one in five (18 per cent) primary school children say that fish fingers come from chicken.

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The world’s oldest person, Jiroemon Kimura, passed away last week at the age of 116. The Guardian looks at how diet in Japan contributes to longevity.

Aside from rice and green tea, the octogenarians share other perennials in their diets: miso soup, drunk regularly but in small quantities due to its high salt content, and nimono, a low-calorie dish of vegetables simmered in mirin, soy sauce and cooking sake.

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