Do vitamins provide extra energy when you are following a reducing diet?ANSWER - No. Although advertising may suggest otherwise, vitamins do not provide energy. "Energy," which we refer to more commonly as calories, comes from the carbohydrate, protein, fats and alcohol we consume. To metabolize these energy nutrients, we need vitamins and minerals.

When you're following a low-calorie diet, it does make sense to take a vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that you're getting enough of the essential nutrients. Whether you're dieting or not, however, that supplement should provide no more than 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowances for each of the nutrients it contains. Taking larger doses to "pep you up" is a waste of money, and sometimes harmful.

QUESTION - What's the latest evidence regarding links between diet and eczema in young children?

ANSWER - A study conducted in New Zealand and recently reported in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests that early introduction of solid food is associated with chronic or recurrent eczema in children, at least until they are ten years old, regardless of whether they receive breast milk, formula or a combination of the two.

In that study, more than 1,000 children were followed for 10 years. During that time, 7.5 percent developed chronic or recurrent eczema. In their analysis, the investigators clustered food into six groups: cow's milk and dairy products, eggs, cereals, vegetables, meat products and fruit. They were unable to find an association between any one of these groups and the development of eczema.

However, children given four or more types of solids before the age of four months were nearly 21/2 times more likely to develop eczema than those who were given no solid food before they were four months old.

The researchers believe that it is not the variety, per se, that's responsible. While relatively few children will have a negative response to the antigens in a single group of foods, increasing the diversity of the diet raises the chances that a child will be exposed to a food to which he or she is sensitive. When taken together, the sum of the relatively small number of responses to any single food add up to a significant increase in overall risk.

There appears to be little reason to add solid foods to an infant's diet before he or she is four to six months old. This new research contributes to the weight of the evidence arguing against doing so.