The importance of nutrition for human health has long been recognized. Prior to 1960, interest in this field focused primarily on the etiology and prevention of acute nutrient deficiency diseases, such as scurvy, rickets, and pellagra. Some 50 essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, cofactors, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids) were identified, and recommended daily intakes for those essential nutrients were developed. These recommendations, in turn, proved valuable in eradicating acute nutrient deficiency diseases.
During the past 23 years, attention has shifted to the role of diet and nutrition in the pathogenesis of chronic degenerative diseases. Heart disease, some cancers, osteoporosis, type II diabetes, and macular degeneration are well-known examples of diseases with die- tary risk factors, and research is currently underway on many more nutrient-disease in- teractions. Unfortunately, these associations are difficult to study, in part because of the timeframes involved. Chronic degenerative diseases develop over decades (or lifetimes), and it is extremely difficult to conduct research programs spanning more than several years in length. Nevertheless, advances in epidemiological and clinical research have uncovered a great deal of information about the impact of diet and nutrient intakes on long-term health.
Over the past decade, science and healthcare researchers have paid increasing attention to the role of nutritional supplements as possible dietary components with roles in preventing and treating chronic disease.
Hundreds of scientific studies have been conducted and published, each spanning a broad range of potential health issues. These studies have employed a wide variety of methodologies and they have produced both positive and negative results. In some areas such as the role of calcium and vitamin D supplements in slowing the progression of osteoporosis, or the role of folic acid supplements in preventing certain birth defects – results have been largely consistent, and these nutrients have become an accepted part of modern healthcare practices.
In other areas (e.g. the role of antioxidant supplementation in preventing heart disease), results have been less consistent, and firm conclusions remain controversial.
The following is an enumerative bibliography of peer-reviewed research examining pos- sible health benefits of nutritional supplements and functional foods. This list is not ex- haustive. Papers have been selected on the basis of scientific merit and relevance to the field, regardless of whether positive or negative results were obtained. Our objective in compiling this list is to provide readers with a good cross-section of recent scientific lit- erature, with hopes of contributing to a better understanding of the current state of nu- tritional research.
For convenience, references have been sorted by health issue:
- Cardiovascular Health
- Bone and Joint Health
- Healthy Pregnancies and Healthy Babies
- Immune Function
- Healthy Vision
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