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Yes, Your Vitamins Are Worth It

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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 to levels believed to help ward off chronic disease.

More good news:

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.

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 , 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, , 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
and
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

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