Yes, Your Vitamins Are Worth It
Some critics call vitamin supplements a waste of money, contending there’s little evidence they promote health. But recent research suggests the opposite, says Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., at Tufts University.
In a recent test, he gave healthy middle-aged and older people a multivitamin-mineral pill with 100% daily value. In only two months, it reduced deficiencies and raised blood micronutrients and antioxidants to levels believed to help ward off chronic disease.
More good news:
Multivitamins save eyes. Taking a multivitamin for more than 10 years can slash risk of cataracts (a clouding of the lens) by an impressive 60%. So finds a new study of 3,089 people, ages 43-86, by ophthalmologists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Researchers aren’t sure which specific vitamins to credit, but any supplement with vitamins C and E worked.
Vitamin C builds bones. In surprising new research at the University of California, San Diego, postmenopausal women who popped vitamin C pills for a dozen years or more had 3% higher bone mineral density, indicating stronger bones, than non-users. The women with the best bones took at least 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day, plus calcium and estrogen replacement.
Brains need B12. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study showed 40% of Americans ages 26-83 had “low normal” vitamin B12 blood levels, bad enough to trigger low cognitive performance in children and high rates of depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in adults. Least deficient: those who took B12 supplements or ate the most dairy foods and fortified cereals. If you are over 50, experts say, take a B12 supplement; many older people need 500 micrograms or more daily (3,000mcg is still safe).
Vitamins keep arteries open. Remarkable new Finnish and Danish research finds that taking vitamins C and E dramatically curbs artery-clogging in men ages 45-69. Investigators gave men both vitamins, either vitamin or a placebo, then used ultrasound to measure plaque buildup in neck arteries over three years. Each vitamin alone helped. Combined, they slashed the progression of atherosclerosis in the first year by 45%. Daily dose: 272 IU natural vitamin E, 500mg slow-release vitamin C.
Vitamin E fights arthritis. In a recent German study, taking 1,200mg vitamin E a day reduced the pain, stiffness and tenderness of rheumatoid arthritis just as well as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Danish research over 20 years suggests E helps prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
Caution: Don’t take high doses of vitamin E without consulting a doctor; it could thin your blood, raise your blood pressure and interact with drugs. Excess vitamin A can be toxic: The safe limit of A, usually listed on labels as “retinyl” or “acetate,” is 3,000mcg or 10,000 IU. But vegetable-based beta carotene, which has vitamin A activity, is non-toxic.
SCIENTIFIC SOURCES FOR THIS ARTICLE
Vitamins fill in deficiencies
McKay DL, J Am Coll Nutr 2000 Oct;19(5): 613-21
Multivitamins Save Eyes
Mares-Perlman, JA. Arch Ophthalmol 2000 Nov; 118(11):1556-63
Vitamin C Builds Bones
Morton D.J. J Bone Miner Res 2001 Jan; 16(1): 135-40
Your Brain May Need Vitamin B12
Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Aug 2, 2000
Vitamins Keep Arteries Open
Salonen JT, J Inern Med 2000 Nov; 248(5): 377-386
Vitamin E Combats Arthritis
Wittenborg A., Z Rheumatol 1998 Aug; 57(4): 215-21
Excessive Vitamin A Can Be Toxic
National Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences report, Dietary Refrence Intakes for Vitamin A, vitamin K, Arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and Zinc, Jan, 2001
Vitamin Takers are Smart Eaters
Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Oct; 72(4): 969-75
J Am Diet Assoc 2000 Aug; 100(8):905-10
This EatSmart column is reprinted from USAWEEKEND Magazine and is copyrighted by Jean Carper. It cannot be reprinted without permission from Jean Carper.
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Article updated on: April 1st, 2001