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How Multivitamins May Help You Live Longer


senior couple Would you like to live a longer, healthier life? A study conducted at the National Institutes of Health suggests that one simple thing may help you do that — taking a daily multivitamin.

Researchers examined end segments on DNA strands. The segments, called , shorten a little each time a cell divides. Telomere length may be a marker for aging, since shorter have been linked with an increased risk of death and chronic diseases, especially heart disease and cancer. That’s because, as shorten, the cell either no longer divides, or divides with DNA errors.

In the NIH study, women who took a daily multivitamin had, on average, 5.1% longer telomeres, the equivalent of approximately 9.8 additional years of life.

The multivitamin may help because it reduces oxidative damage and inflammation,  researchers say. Telomeres are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. And inflammation induces oxidative stress and lowers the activity of telomerase, the enzyme that that is responsible for maintaining telomeres. Because vitamin C and vitamin E, B vitamins (especially vitamin B12 and folic acid) and specific minerals can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, they may be useful for the maintenance of telomere length. In fact, vitamins C and E have been shown in cell cultures to slow telomere shortening and increase cellular life span.

Other things also known to preserve telomere length: vitamin D, exercise, astragalus (a tonic from India) and resveratrol, the plant compound found in wine and grapes that is now well-known for its anti-aging benefits.

The bottom line is, good multivitamin can be your main defense against aging and chronic disease. In this study, the multivitamin provided more than 50% of the total intake for most vitamins and minerals, making it a major source of these nutrients.


Xu, Q., et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1857-63.

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Article updated on: May 21st, 2014

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