December 15, 2011

A distinguished nutrition professor from Purdue visits FAFS

"Vitamin D recommendations: General public vs. individual treatment" was the lecture given by Dr. Connie Weaver, a  distinguished Professor and Head Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University, Dr. Connie Weaver.  

Weaver’s accomplishments were in the area of nutrition research and mineral bioavailability. She has published over 165 original research articles and 116 book chapters. The results of her research on calcium metabolism are being used to set recommendations for calcium for populations around the world.  She was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board Panel to develop new recommendations for requirements for calcium and related minerals. .

Weaver , came to the American University of Beirut (AUB)  to give a series of  3 lectures at the Faculty of Food Sciences and Agriculture (FAFS)

On her first lecture, Dr. Weaver debated about the need of Vitamin D pill supplements as sun can account 99% as a source for vitamin D. 

Dr. Weaver listed sources of vitamin D commonly found in USA but are still not available in Lebanon, such as fortified milk, fortified juices and fatty fish.

Remarkably, most students of all ages who stay in their classes and people who work indoors are less exposed to sun, which explains Vitamin D deficiencies among the Lebanese population. Other populations at risk are the elderly, dark skinned individuals, lactose intolerants and those living at temperate latitudes.

Vitamin D is important in bone development and growth as it is involved with calcium absorption from the diet. Vitamin D deficiency causes bone pain and muscle weakness. Dr. Weaver pointed that out that medical research have associated low vitamin D intake with cardiovascular diseases, asthma in children, cancer, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. 

Dr.Weaver also focused on the controversies in the literature about the cutoff that determines whether an individual is Vitamin D deficient or not. She was asked from the audience whether everyone need to be checked for vitamin D deficiency, or merely wait for clinical symptoms since it is a very expensive.

The prominent Lebanese endocrinologist Ghada ElHajj Fleihan at AUH was also attending the lecture and gave her own point of view of doing these tests. She stated that these tests are not done routinely so they aren’t necessarily a good judgment on the status of the patient. They also don’t give reliable results because the assays undergo variations. She also suggested that giving supplements during winter won’t harm as most of student don’t drink milk and are in their classes from 8 am to 5 pm. And in summer, the supplements can be moderated because of increased exposure to sun.

Dr. Weaver concluded again that most physicians recommend diet adjustments for their patients but she truly believes that sun is the most important source for Vitamin D absorption.  

As for the other 2 lectures, Dr. Weaver discussed several topics including: biomarkers developed for use in experimental nutrition, and discoveries at the food science and nutrition Interface. As a URB visiting scholar, she also met several graduate and undergraduate students for discussing the Nutrition and Food Sciences program and their concerns at FAFS.

Article appeared in Outlook, AUB's student Magazine . Issue 10, Volume 44.  

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