RFF #96 – In the 1950s, Quaker Oats Co. sponsored research that fed radioactive minerals to institutionalized children

The unsuspecting boys were told that they were going to be part of a “Science Club.” Meanwhile, the parents were told that their children would be fed a diet high in nutrients, which technically was true, but of course they failed to mention that the nutrients were radioactively labelled!

In case you’re wondering, researchers radioactively labelled the nutrients to enable them to track their absorption in the body. One theory is that they wanted to ensure that the cereal didn’t decrease the absorption of calcium and iron in fortified milk.

Despite the fact that the children received a dose of radiation that is equivalent to 50 chest x-rays, the task force that investigated this in the 1990s concluded that “no significant health effects were incurred.” Nevertheless, some of the subjects were financially compensated due to the lack of informed consent.

Filling out ethics applications is a task that most scientists dread. Unfortunately, it’s something I’ve been doing for the past few days. Nevertheless, stories such as this remind one of the importance of transparency in research, and thus makes the task slightly less onerous.

I learned about this fact from: A “Cold Case Episode” oddly enough, and http://tech.mit.edu/V115/N49/radiation.49n.html and http://www.disclose.tv/forum/the-fernald-experiments-t76342.html

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RFF#77 – While the WHO recommends 400-500 mg of Calcium per day, Health Canada and the FDA recommend 1000mg

The more I learn about nutrition, the more and more confused I get when it comes to the recommended daily nutrient intake levels. The fact of the matter is, no one really knows exactly how much calcium,  sodium, or iron we actually need on a daily basis. Part of this is due to the fact that we’re all different and the amount of Calcium that I need could be very different from the amount of Calcium that YOU need. Not to mention, the amount of Calcium that I require today may be different from the amount that I will need tomorrow. A large part of this is due to the fact that, beyond obvious factors like age and gender, there are many variables that can influence one’s calcium needs…

  • Consumption of foods/nutrients that aid Calcium absorption, such as Vitamin D…with that in mind, another factor influencing absorption is…
  • Exposure to sunlight. As you know, Vitamin D is produced when sunlight is absorbed through your skin, hence if you spend more time in the sun, you’ll probably absorb more Calcium.
  • Consumption of foods/nutrients that inhibit Calcium absorption. This includes chocolate, sugar, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine, giving you yet another reason to avoid these tempting, yet potentially harmful foods.
  • Genes! By now, it’s pretty obvious that genes affect everything. We’ve already discussed that Vitamin D aids Calcium absorption. However, even with adequate Vitamin D, your calcium absorption is dependent on which version of the vitamin D receptor gene you’ve inherited.

All things considered, you can imagine how hard it is to set Calcium recommendations for the entire population. In many ways,  it’s an impossible task, any recommendation will only be an estimated average that may or may not be ideally suited to you.

For me, the large difference between the WHO’s recommendation (400-500mg) and the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendation (1000mg [for adults]) is reassuring. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of dairy products. Though I don’t necessarily advocate for veganism, I definitely think that there are some serious issues with consuming large amounts of milk (largely due to the hormone content). So if you’re like me, you can now rest assured that according to the WHO, approximately a cup and a half of milk (which contains around 500 mg of Calcium) could be enough to prevent you from developing osteoporosis.

I learned about this fact from:

http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/en/gsfao_osteo.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15883634

http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/world-s-most-cited-nutritionist-debunks-dieting-myths-1.1657609