1. Dwyer, Johanna T. DSc, RD

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For the past few months, media pundits have had afield day reporting "contradictions" in recent nutrition studies and that nutritional chaos reigns. Many nutrition spokesmen are shell-shocked by all the attacks. They say that they feel like early Christian martyrs being fed to the wild beasts as they try to explain study results to the public and the media. At universities, nutrition scientists fear that negative results will bring down the wrath of Congress and halt nutrition research appropriations. Our columnist James Tillotson provides his take on the situation in his column this month.


Is nutrition science really doing flip-flops? We think not. When solid nutrition studies turn out differently than predicted, the science is doing what it is designed to do: subjecting dogma to the cold light of fact and experiment. Without a doubt, this process is occasionally disruptive, but in the end, it means that recommendations will be more firmly grounded in scientific evidence.


Is reliance on expert dietary advice a gambler's game, and are people just as well off tossing a coin to decide what to eat? Actually, over the years, most of what the experts have told us has been right on the money. For example, there is very little in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that must be modified or changed as a result of developments this year. Although on balance, experts and their recommendations have done much good and have only occasionally missed the mark, experts must continue to test their theories and avoid complacency. And it is important for them and practicing nutritionists and the media not to overpromise on what good nutrition can deliver, particularly when it comes to chronic degenerative disease. Good nutrition is neither a panacea nor a substitute for good healthcare and is often insufficient by itself. For those who are at high risk of diet-related diseases or those who are already ill, it is a combination of eating healthy, other lifestyle changes, and medical therapies that may be necessary to keep what ails them at bay.


It is good for nutrition science that it continues to advance toward higher standards of evidence to back up nutritional advice. By its very nature, nutrition advice is always somewhat in a state of flux because science continues to advance. Nutrition advice should not flip and flop in response to a single study's results but be thoroughly grounded in all of the scientific evidence and common sense.


USDA Launches New Vitamin Database

A database has just been released on the Food Surveys Research Group Web site-USDA Database of Vitamin A ([mu]g RAE) and Vitamin E (mg AT) for National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2000. The database, developed for use with NHANES 1999-2000, includes values for vitamin A, expressed as micrograms of retinol activity equivalents ([mu]g RAE), and vitamin E, expressed as milligrams of "[alpha]-tocopherol (mg AT).


Values are provided for 4,311 foods reported in NHANES 1999-2000 and can be used to calculate the amount of vitamins A and E based on Dietary Reference Intake measures. Check it out at Once there, click on Products and Services.