Eating a health-promoting diet is an essential component of good health. While it seems to be common sense that eating a healthy diet provides all of the vitamins and minerals we need to enjoy good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease, numerous scientific studies have shown that using good quality nutritional supplements can go beyond addressing nutrient deficiencies and help you achieve optimal health.
A recent study commissioned by Wyeth Consumer Health found that daily use of a multivitamin by older adults is a relatively inexpensive yet potentially powerful way to stay healthy. The group studied the effects of taking multivitamins on five diseases: coronary artery disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.
These researchers estimated that providing a daily multivitamin to the elderly would result in a five-year potential health care cost savings of approximately $1.6 billion, and avoidable hospitalization for heart attacks of approximately $2.4 billion because of improved immune functioning and a reduction in the relative risk of coronary artery disease.
There is evidence that both clinical and subclinical nutrient deficiencies are common in the US. In recent years, the US government has commissioned a number of comprehensive studies (HANES I and II, Ten State Nutrition Survey, etc) to determine the nutritional status of the US population.
These studies in general reveal that marginal nutritional deficiencies exist in approximately 50% of the US population, and that for some selected nutrients and selected age groups, more than 80% of people consumed less than the RDA (recommended daily allowance). While it is theoretically possible for us to get all of the vitamins and minerals we need from our diets, the evidence suggests the reality is many of us do not. Taking a multiple vitamin and mineral formula can in many ways be viewed as cheap health insurance.
While most Americans are deficient in some vitamins and minerals, the level of deficiency is not often obvious. Severe vitamin C deficiency as seen in scurvy is rare, though evidence suggests that marginal, or subclinical, vitamin C deficiency is quite common.
So, what do I mean by a good quality nutritional supplement? First of all, it is not a one-a-day RDA vitamin/mineral combination. RDA guidelines were originally developed to reduce the rates of severe deficiency diseases such as scurvy and pellagra. There is much scientific evidence that the optimal levels for many nutrients, especially the antioxidant vitamins such as vitamins C and E, are significantly higher than the RDAs for these vitamins. RDAs also do not take into account environmental and lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and exposure to toxins that affect how we absorb and utilize vitamins and minerals.
A good quality supplement, in my opinion, contains higher levels of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. It also balances the minerals and vitamins in proper ratios for absorption and utilization by the body and contains few if any binders, excipients and other additives. While not necessary for many people, I often use ones with hypoallergenic ingredients to avoid reactions in sensitive people. Finally, vitamins and minerals should be in safe amounts and chemical forms that absorb well and are easily utilized by the body.
What this means is most good quality vitamin and mineral supplements are in the range of four to six tablets or capsules per day. I can recommend a specific formula to address your needs and advise taking two or three with both breakfast and dinner. This simple step can go a long way to insure you are not deficient in important nutrients, and is often a core part of one's treatment plan. Typical monthly costs are approximately $1 per day for most formulas, and I prefer the Pure Encapsulations products as well as NF's Women's Formula.