Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I thought I'd share this release I got from the NIH about the importance of vitamin B12 during pregnancy and pre-pregnancy. I'll also add that The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook has lots of recipes and tips for getting lots B12 and folate from your foods.

National Institutes of Health

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)


Embargoed for Release

Monday March 2, 2009

12:01 a.m. EST



Robert Bock or Marianne Glass Miller



Low Levels of Vitamin B12 May Increase Risk for Neural Tube Defects


Children born to women who have low blood levels of vitamin B12 shortly before and after conception may have an increased risk of a neural tube defect, according to an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, Trinity College Dublin, and the Health Research Board of Ireland.


Women with the lowest B12 levels had 5 times the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect compared to women with the highest B12 levels.


Women who consume little or no meat or animal based foods are the most likely group of women to have low B12 levels, along with women who have intestinal disorders that prevent them from absorbing sufficient amounts of B12.


Neural tube defects are a class of birth defects affecting the brain and spinal cord. One type, spina bifida, can cause partial paralysis.  Another type, anencephaly, is a fatal defect in which the brain and skull are severely underdeveloped.


Researchers have known that taking another nutrient, folic acid, during the weeks before and after conception can greatly reduce a woman’s chances of having a child with a neural tube defect.  Folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin folate.  In the United States, cereal grains are fortified with folic acid to reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects in the U.S. population. 


The study appears in the March Pediatrics.  The study’s first author was Anne M. Molloy, Ph.D., Trinity College Dublin.  Scientists from the Health Research Board of Ireland and two NIH institutes, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Human Genome Research Institute, also took part in the study.


“Vitamin B12 is essential for the functioning of the nervous system and for the production of red blood cells,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the NICHD.  “The results of this study suggest that women with low levels of B12 not only may risk health problems of their own, but also may increase the chance that their children may be born with a serious birth defect.”


Ireland has a high rate of neural tube defects, and NIH scientists have frequently collaborated with Irish researchers to gain insight into the causes of this group of disorders.


To conduct the study, the researchers analyzed stored blood samples originally collected during early pregnancy from three groups of Irish women between 1983 and 1990.  During that time, pregnant women in Ireland rarely took vitamin supplements.  The study authors reasoned that the lack of routine vitamin supplementation would allow them to identify a sufficient number of women with low Vitamin B12 to conduct their analysis.


For their analysis, the researchers classified the women into three groups.  The first group consisted of 95 women who were pregnant with a child having a neural tube defect at the time the blood was taken.  The second group was composed of 107 women who had previously given birth to a child with a neural tube defect but whose current pregnancy was not affected.  Like the first group, women in the third group (a total of 76) were pregnant with a child having a neural tube defect at the time the blood sample was obtained, but were enrolled in a different study than the women in group 1.  The researchers measured the Vitamin B12 and folate levels of the women’s blood samples, and compared them to those of control groups whose pregnancies were unaffected by a neural tube defect.


Because low folate levels are a known risk factor for neural tube defects, the researchers used statistical techniques to evaluate the role of Vitamin B12 independently of the role of folate. In all three groups, women with low B12 concentrations (estimated at less than 250 ng/L, before pregnancy) had 2.5-3 times the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect compared to those with higher levels. Women with levels in the deficient range (0-149 ng/L ) were at the highest risk: 5 times that of women with higher levels.


The study authors wrote that it is not known how B12 and folate might interact to influence the formation of the neural tube, the embryonic structure that gives rise to the spine and brain.  They noted that the two vitamins are jointly involved with several key biochemical reactions, as well as with the synthesis of DNA. Lack of either Vitamin B12 or folate in any of these chemical processes theoretically could increase the risk of a neural tube defect.


The authors noted that their results needed to be confirmed by other studies among other populations of women.  They suggested, however, that women should have Vitamin B12 levels above 300 ng/L before becoming pregnant.  (Because B12 levels drop sharply during pregnancy, the researchers adjusted the levels measured during pregnancy to provide a target level for women to achieve before they become pregnant.)


Because Vitamin B12 comes from foods of animal origin, women who adhere to a strict vegan diet may be at risk for a B12 deficiency, said an NICHD author of the paper, James L. Mills, M.D., senior investigator in the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research.  He added it is advisable for women with digestive disorders that interfere with the absorption of foods to consult a physician before getting pregnant, to make sure they are receiving adequate amounts of B12.


Dr. Mills explained that critical events in the formation of the brain and spinal column occur very early in pregnancy—in the first 28 days after conception—before many women even realize they are pregnant.


He added that the U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.  This amount assures that a woman will have adequate stores of the vitamin, in the event of an unintended pregnancy.


“If women wait until they realize that they are pregnant before they start taking folic acid, it is usually too late,” Dr. Mills said.


Similarly, he said, it would be wise for all women of childbearing age to consume the recommended amount of Vitamin B12, whether they are planning a pregnancy or not.  “Half of the women who become pregnant each year in the U.S. were not planning to become pregnant.”


“Our results offer evidence that women who have adequate B12 levels before they become pregnant may further reduce the occurrence of this class of birth defects,” Dr. Mills said.


Vitamin B12 is available in milk, meats, poultry, eggs, as well as fortified cereals and some other fortified foods.  Information on foods that contain Vitamin B12, as well as the Recommended Dietary Allowances for the vitamin, is available from the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements,


Folate is found in leafy green vegetables, fruits, and dried beans and peas.  Information on sources of folate also is available from the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, 

Monday, February 23, 2009

QuickBooks for MAC 2009

This is totally different from my usual topic of food -- but I am so upset about this experience that I had to share it on the hope that I can save somebody else money and aggravation. I recently switched from a PC to a MAC. Although, I had just bought the latest QuickBooks for PC only a year and a half ago, I purchased the 2009 QB for MAC and converted over my PC data. I've been very happy with QB for my PC and have used it for years without incident. But the MAC version--what a nightmare! 

To start with, this software is way backward from even the 1999 version of PC Quickbooks without many features -- particularly, the inability to select which credits I want to apply to an invoice or to unapply credits to an invoice to name just one. But even worse, this software is full of bugs. When I received multiple invoices and applied credits, if I went back to look at them afterwards, they were changed -- different invoices were checked, different credits applied, partial payments were created. Payments I received one and two years ago were now marked to pay for random invoices in the future (i.e. a 2007 payment was now marked to pay a 2008 invoice). My books have become completely messed up. I don't know which invoices are legitimately paid and which not. I don't know what payment paid what invoice. And the credits are applied to all kinds of random partial payments. 

And it gets worse. I called the tech support department for help and they told me that it was something I had done that messed things up. Even though I told them I'd been using PC quickbooks for years without a problem, they still didn't believe me. He said there was no way there could be a bug in the program and the only way he'd help me was if I'd purchase a service plan. I told him I wasn't going to pay Quickbooks to fix a bug in their program and the guy was very rude. I asked how I could report a bug. I was willing to supply examples and documentation of my problem. He told me there was no way to do this and that the problem was mine, not a bug. I then hired, at my expense, a QuickBooks expert to help me and after hours of trying to clean up my books and having them get messed up again every time I received a payment, she told me she had never seen a problem like this and that the problem was with the program. 

I ended up having to throw away this program that I paid good money for, put out more money to buy Windows, install it as a separate partition so I could use my old QuickBooks for Windows. While the PC version is working fine, my data is still all messed up thanks to MAC QuickBooks. 

If you think it's just me, check out the reviews on Everybody is having problems. I am warning you -- DO NOT BUY THIS PROGRAM. Not only will you waste your money, but your books and data will get completely messed up.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Non-plastic water bottle review--REVISITED

Well, it's been about a year since I received and reviewed a selection of non-plastic water bottles from  Sigg, Klean Kanteen,  and Thermos. Now that we've been using them for a year, I have a lot more insight into what we like and don't like about them--what worked and what didn't. I also have a new nonplastic water bottle to tell you about. For those who didn't read my first review, you can refer to it here. You'll also find the Web sites and product information for each bottle.

Klean Kanteen
The two silver stainless steel bottles in the left of the photo are from Klean Kanteen. The tall bottle we usually use with the sports top lid. However, since all of their lids are interchangeable (a nice feature) it is pictured with the flat screw in lid. The smaller bottle has the toddler sippy cup lid. Okay so --- here's the deal. I really liked the small bottle because it's perfect to fit in my kids lunch boxes, however, it hasn't worked out so well. The problem is the covers. The screw top lid is too hard for my kids to get off and the wide mouth of the bottle makes spills inevitable, especially if used in the car. I started putting the sports top lid on the bottle which unlike other sports top bottles I've tried this cover has not leaked (YAY!) however, my daughter kept coming home upset because it squeaked when she drank from it. For someone who hates to stand out, making this noise in the cafeteria was mortifying to her. She actually likes the sippy cup lid (even though she's to old for it) but of course would never bring it to school that way. She keeps it next to her bed, however, for water during the night and it's easy to use and doesn't spill so works great. My husband has been very happy with the taller bottle with the sports top which he takes biking (the squeaking doesn't bother him!)

The tall purple bottle is from Sigg. It's aluminum and very light. It does however dent really easily though the manufacturer assures me that this does not affect anything. I don't really care for the Sigg bottles. They're too big to easily drink from or to fit in a cup holder or bag but my husband LOVES these. They are his favorite. He loves how light they are for hiking or carrying around and he loves how big they are because he likes to have a lot of water around whether hiking or on the road for work. I wasn't given any medium size bottles to test, maybe I would have liked them fine.

The bottle on the far right is from Thermos and this is my absolute favorite of the bottles. It holds just the right amount of water for a hike or the gym. The thermos insulation keeps my water cold even in the car all day and the pop top is so easy to use. My kids use the smaller thermos bottles (not pictured here but check out the link to see them). They are also easy to use and I love that their water stays cold all day at school (one of my daughter's backpack is right in the sun at school all day and she used to complain of warm water). The only thing I'm not so thrilled with is that the kids ones have a plastic straw to drink from. They like it and it works fine, but it needs to be replaced periodically. I much prefer the pop top and spout of my larger bottle.

New on the scene - - Sesen Glass Water Bottle
The bottle is glass and is dishwasher friendly. It fits in a car cup holder and also comes with a carrying bag (made of recycled water bottles). It even comes with an ice pack (filled with water) to keep your water cold in the bag. The stopper is very--and I mean very--tight. There is no way this thing is leaking. 

My experience: I love drinking out of glass and always feel that my water stays the freshest in glass so I really like this bottle. The bottle is really strong so unlike the bad luck I've had using recycled juice bottles, this bottle is much more durable. It's not for kids though and not for bike riding, but for the car and the gym where I mostly carry water, it works just fine. For more information and videos, check out the Sesen Web site.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Great Meals on a Budget

Check out my latest article in The Whole Family Column in VegFamily Magazine on saving money on your food bills by eating more beans. The article includes bean cooking tips and recipes and more.