purdue university college of consumer and family sciences
campus images
April 2008

Development of a Vitamin D Analysis  Research Core

scientistThe relationship of vitamin D status to health and chronic disease is currently the “hottest” topic in nutrition. In the last two decades, scientists have learned that vitamin D, which acts as a classical steroid hormone, affects many organs beyond bone and plays a critical role not only in osteoporosis and rickets but also in the risk of certain cancers, autoimmune diseases and chronic infectious disease. Vitamin D and its metabolites are recognized as a difficult class of compounds to analyze at the trace levels observed in many tissues and biological fluids. Very few laboratories have developed the capability of measuring vitamin D and its metabolites for clinical studies. In cooperation with Indiana University School of Medicine, the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University has an opportunity to develop a vitamin D analysis research core under the direction of Dr. Connie Weaver through a Discovery Park Capacity Building grant.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from Purdue University and the IU School of Medicine hope to develop sample preparation and analysis protocols for the range of vitamin D forms and their metabolites necessary to perform research in health and disease, food composition and product development, and gut microbiology to become a full range vitamin D Analysis research core.

The potential of vitamin D research is a great platform to position Purdue in the era of wellness rather than illness. There are a number of current and pending projects that can immediately take advantage of this new research. With a vitamin D analysis research core in place, the potential for new research grants from federal and industry sources increases, as well as performing research core services on a fee for service basis. For more information on the vitamin D research core project, contact Dr. Connie Weaver at weavercm@purdue.edu.


2008 Kirksey Lecture: “What are the problem nutrients for breastfed infants?”

infantDr. Avanelle Kirksey, a valued faculty member of the Department of Foods and Nutrition from 1961 to 1994, left a legacy at Purdue University.  Her ground-breaking research, valued teaching, and community outreach efforts are honored every year in the department with the Avanelle Kirksey Lecture series.  The 2008 Avanelle Kirksey Lecture Series was presented by Kathryn Dewey, Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Interim Director of the Program in International and Community Nutrition University of California, Davis.

Dr. Dewey presented "What are the problem nutrients for breastfed infants?" In order to prevent iron deficiency in the breastfed infant, Dewey’s lab studies total body iron at birth and the effects of delaying cord clamping after delivery. Both have found to play a significant role in the effects of adequate iron status from birth to 6 months.


Folic Acid: It’s more than a fad

pregnant womanFolic acid is an essential vitamin for healthy growth and development.  It is critical in the formation of the neural tube which occurs very early in gestation.  In fact, many times before a woman may even know she is pregnant. 

Folic acid can be obtained through food (folate) and through supplementation.  The form used in fortification of food and in supplements (folic acid) may be more bioavailable.  The most recent DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for folate reflects the increased bioavailability of synthetic over food folate.  The recommendation states that women of childbearing age should consume 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid in addition to food folate. Fortification of grains with folic acid began in 1992.  However, even though intakes have improved and rates of neural tube defects have decreased, there is still work to be done.             

A major area for more education and intervention is with non-Hispanic black women.  Prior to and post fortification, non-Hispanic black women have the lowest intake of folic acid.  Mexican American women also have shown decreases in intake.             

When awareness of folic acid benefits for pregnancy was assessed, it was found that 40.7% of black women, and 30.3% of American Indian women were not aware of the benefits.  This is compared to 18% of white women. Health disparities such as these can be lessened through use of folic acid supplementation and an increase in fortified foods as well as those high in food folate. The educational message is a 3 pronged approach:

  • Consume diet rich in food folate
  • Consume fortified foods (grains)
  • Consume folic acid supplements

This is not an expensive message.  A typical folic acid supplement can be purchased for only a penny a day. Such a small behavior can have a far reaching effect on lowering the incidence of neural tube defects. Studies in recent years have also begun to uncover the relationship of folic acid intake to health across the lifespan, such as reduction in certain cancers and heart disease.

Folic Acid: It’s more than a fad, originally presented in September 2007 has been updated by Dr. Carol Boushey in the Department of Foods and Nutrition. To view the presentation, visit the Indiana Folic Acid Council webpage, www.ces.purdue.edu/infolicacid.  For more information, contact Donna Vandergraff at vandergraff@purdue.edu.

Foods & Nutrition Department
Stone Hall, Room 213
700 West State Street
West Lafayette, IN

Phone: (765) 494-8228
Fax: (765) 494-0674

Copyright © 2005, Purdue University, all rights reserved.
An equal access/equal opportunity university.
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA, (765) 494-4600