OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Web site to explore vitamins, micronutrients and health

10/23/2000

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new "Micronutrient Information Center" has been created by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University to provide people all over the world with some of the latest scientific information, studies and recommendations about vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.

This wealth of information can be found at http://lpi.orst.edu/infocenter.

The informational web site, officials say, has no product to sell, no hidden agenda and no funding from commercial interests. It is supported by private donations. What it does have is some of the best, most up-to-date information on the role of vitamins and other micronutrients in human health and disease prevention, backed up by solid science and written in a style that's easy to understand.

"There are a lot of web sites that provide different types of information about vitamins and minerals, but many of them are trying to sell products or make unsubstantiated claims," said Jane Higdon, the nutrition expert who will operate the information center. "What we want to offer here are solid, credible facts, backed by scientific studies and reviewed by experts, which help readers to sort through the confusion and contradictory statements you often see in this field."

Did you ever wonder if you should increase your intake of vitamin C?

At the new information center, in a short time you could learn about the U.S. recommended dietary allowance, or RDA for this vitamin, what it is based upon, and how this essential nutrient functions in the body.

But you also could learn about the latest studies that have looked at the value of vitamin C in preventing heart disease, stroke, cancer or the complications of diabetes. You could consider research that is exploring its potential to reduce cataracts or the severity of the common cold. See what experts have said about the safety of the vitamin, its interactions with drugs and the upper intake limits. Read about a recent study published in the British medical journal The Lancet demonstrating the vitamin's ability to reduce blood pressure in mild to moderate hyptertension. See a list of the 14 scientific studies that form the basis for what's being said about vitamin C.

And last, but not least, get the recommendations of the Linus Pauling Institute for an intake of this vitamin - 200 milligrams a day, preferably obtained through five or more servings of fruits and vegetables.

According to Higdon, the presentations at this new web site will try to walk a fine line between providing detailed, in-depth information without making an issue so long or complicated it's impossible for the general public to understand. There's also a section that correlates different health issues - ranging from pregnancy complications to high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease - to the nutrients that may be relevant to them. And through the web, of course, readers can easily flip to other links for more information or an explanation of a term they don't understand.

Information about 14 different vitamins is available now at the information center, and reports on minerals or other micronutrients will be added soon, officials say. The reports now online include analysis of some of the most widely taken nutritional supplements in the world, such as vitamins C, E and the B vitamins.

The reports at this web site are essentially "literature reviews" of the latest scientific research. They are written by Higdon, a registered nurse who also holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Stanford University and a doctoral degree in nutrition from OSU. Each article also is reviewed for credibility and accuracy by appropriate experts, usually recognized scientists or medical doctors who have studied the various micronutrients and published widely in their fields.

According to Stephen Lawson, the administrative officer with the Linus Pauling Institute, the new information center will also try to take people beyond some of the conventional and often outdated wisdom about vitamins and minerals.

"There is really a great deal of fascinating research being done in nutrition that many people and even medical professionals are not aware of," Lawson said. "It's an evolving, fast-changing field. But too often some of the recommendations about vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients are being made only on the basis of what's needed to prevent deficiency diseases, such as scurvy. They may not reflect the latest science and may not be what's best for your optimal health.

"These are the types of issues we have explored on this web site," he added.

There are also many areas, the OSU experts say, where knowledgeable experts disagree on the proper intake levels or value of different types of nutrients.

"Where we can identify a consensus among experts, we'll present it that way," Higdon said. "Where there are contradictory opinions among researchers we'll acknowledge that and let the readers make up their own minds after they consider the scientific information and studies."

At OSU, the Linus Pauling Institute is committed to both scientific research and public communication about the effects of nutritional factors on health and disease. It has several internationally recognized researchers, significant support from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies, and its members have participated on federal panels studying such micronutrients as vitamins C and E.