2016 Rusted-Bayley Public Nutrition Lecture

Dr. Deborah O’ConnorOn Wednesday September 14, 2016 the Department of Biochemistry welcomed Dr. Deborah O’Connor, Director, Department of Clinical Dietetics and Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences University of Toronto to present the 2016 Faith Elizabeth Winifred (Rusted) Bayley Public Nutrition Lecture on the topic of "Multivitamin supplements: too much of a good thing?"

The Faith Elizabeth Winifred (Rusted) Bayley Nutrition Lecture was established by a bequest from Dr. Nigel Rusted in memory of his sister, a dietitian and high-ranking RCAF squadron leader in the Eastern Air Command during WWII.

Dr. O’Connor discussed multivitamin supplement use in Canada — who is using them, whether they rectify specific nutrient deficiencies and what are some general rules of thumb to prevent consuming unsafe levels.

“Consumption of a varied and balanced diet is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, however there are times during the life-cycle when a supplement helps augment the diet,” said Dr. O’Connor. “Two examples are the use of a folic acid-containing multivitamin supplement around the time of conception for the prevention of birth defects or a vitamin D supplement for breastfed infants to promote normal bone development."

“But what is the evidence of the effectiveness of multivitamin supplements generally? Do they appropriately target those nutrients Canadians are likely to be consuming in less than optimal amounts? Is there any evidence that Canadians may be consuming too many multivitamin supplements and can too many supplements cause harm?”

Dr. O’Connor serves as co-chair of the Advisory Committee for the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Donor Milk Bank and co-chair of the Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Nutrition Working Group that recently published female nutrition guidelines for Canada. She is also a member of the US-Canada governments Joint Dietary Reference Intake Working Group on Chronic Disease Endpoints and leads research programs which evaluate strategies to optimize the use of human milk for vulnerable humans.

She was was formerly senior clinical group leader at Abbott Laboratories in Ohio where she developed one of the first human milk nutrient fortifiers. Dr. O’Conner also served as the director of Clinical Dietetics and Breastfeeding Support at The Hospital for Sick Children and associate chief of Academic and Professional Practice.