Translating nutrition research and the results of nutrition surveillance into practical actions to fulfil unmet nutrition need and help prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is of utmost importance.
Pre-term births and low birth weight are still prevalent worldwide. On the one hand, this is related to increased hospital stays and reduced survival rate of the newborns; on the other hand, babies who are born prematurely face greater risk in developing some NCDs, particularly obesity, dyslipidemia, and hypertension when entering their middle age. Recent scientific research has proved omega-3 supplementation and other micronutrients in early pregnancy can effectively improve birth outcomes by reducing the risks of pre-term birth and low birth weight. Moreover, the latest evidence also demonstrates mothers who deliver a pre-term baby, are themselves prone to developing cardiovascular and metabolic disorders a few decades later. Thus, pregnancy is a critical stage during which adequate intake of DHA and micronutrients plays irreplaceable roles in shaping future cardiovascular and metabolic health for both infants and mothers.
Exposure to air pollution—e.g. particulate matter of 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) and ozone—has emerged as a public health problem globally. The exposure to an excessive level of PM2.5 and ozone provokes a series of oxidative stress and inflammatory responses in the body. Some studies have provided clinical evidence that marine-derived omega-3 fatty acid (i.e. fish oil) and vitamins E and C can minimise some of these adverse responses. While reducing pollutant emissions is a paramount goal, meeting air quality guidelines is conceivably neither easy nor quick in many countries. Rather than waiting for air quality improvement, all protective procedures including nutritional ones need to be implemented and available.
Vitamin D deficiency is caused by several factors. For instance, people in many countries now spend less time engaging in outdoor activities, and thereby have reduced exposure to sunshine or ultraviolet (UV) rays and reduced cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D; air pollution can prevent UVB light from penetrating the atmosphere; overweight and obesity can alter the pharmacokinetics of vitamin D in the body, thereby reducing vitamin D availability in circulation; the ability to produce vitamin D in the skin decreases as the person ages. It is worthwhile emphasising vitamin D not only helps build and maintain a healthier bone and skeletal muscle system, but also provides other health benefits including NCDs prevention. Given vitamin D deficiency is widespread, all effective means are needed to tackle this public health issue.
Dr Weiguo Zhang will be speaking in the keynote panel discussion, Healthy Ageing; Understanding the Silver Consumers, on the Vitafoods Asia Life Stages Theatre on 6 September. To register to attend Vitafoods Asia in Singapore, click here.