AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: iron

The Importance of a Teenage Balanced Diet


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We all have heard someone in our life say: “what you do and how you act now will affect you in the years to come.” The teenage years set the foundation for the rest of your life. The choices you make on a daily basis affect you in later years. One of those daily choices is what you eat, and this choice is more important in your teenage years than you think.

A recent study sheds light on the importance of specifically iron intake in your teen years. Iron has more of an influence on ones brain than most would think. Professor Paul Thompson measured levels of transferrin in adolescents and discovered the “transferrin levels were related to detectable differences in both the brain’s macro-structure and micro-structure when the adolescents reached young adulthood.” Iron and the proteins that transport iron are critical for brain function.

After reading this article one problem I found is too little iron can result in cognitive problems but too much iron promotes neurodegenerative diseases.  So what is the right amount of iron intake? This article talks about iron intake and how much you should be incorporating in your diet everyday. Since both a deficiency and an excess of iron can have a negative impact that makes the body’s regulation of iron transport even more crucial.

A shocking aspect of this research was as it states in the article about the test subjects: “we were looking at people who were young and healthy — none of them would be considered iron-deficient.” The young individuals who were part of this study were not even iron-deficient! Yet still the research showed that healthy brain wiring in adults depends on iron levels in your teenage years.

Is it too late to start incorporating iron in your diet as an adult? Ofcourse not! You may be wondering how you can incorporate more iron in your diet. Iron can be taken in as a vitamin and found in many foods. As a healthy teenager you may not be always thinking about the things you eat but another thing people always say is: “you should have a balanced diet” and they are correct!

Avoid Your Vitamins?

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Taking additional vitamins, or dietary supplements, has always been viewed as being positive for our diets. Parents often encourage their young children to take multi-vitamin pills on a daily basis. Flintstones Vitamins (above), which consist of vitamins such as iron, calcium, and vitamin C, are among one of the most popular multi-vitamin supplements. I even remember my parents making me take them every morning when I was a kid. Many people continue to take these dietary supplements when they are adults. Daily vitamin supplements are also extremely popular among elderly people.

The question is, do these vitamin pills truly have positive health benefits if consumed along side a normal diet? A recent study in the New York Times challenges these long-held beliefs behind dietary vitamin supplements.

In this large study, scientists followed 38,772 women who averaged 62 years of age. Over 19 years, almost half of the women died, and scientists were surprised to find out that those who consumed multivitamins or supplements of folic acid, iron, magnesium, or zinc were more likely to die over the period than those who did not take any multivitamins or supplements. Thus,  “older women who used common dietary supplements died at slightly higher rates than women who did not rely on supplements.”

The scientists were also able to notice trends from their results that showed what effects the different supplements and multivitamins had on the women’s lives. For example, supplements like iron were “directly associated” with an increase in death among the women. Certain supplements like vitamin A & vitamin D had no affect at all on the women’s lives. Multivitamins were responsible for a 2.4 % increase in risk of death. Calcium supplements, however, actually decreased the risk of death.

After a study like this one, it may be necessary to re-consider the notion that taking additional vitamins is a positive addition to our diets. Parents might now want to reconsider giving their child a Flintstone Vitamin with his breakfast every morning, and a grandmother might want to lay off the daily pills.

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