All Adults Should Take a Daily Multivitamin, Recommends AMA Journal

Health Notes Newswire (June 27, 2002)

  • All adults should take a multivitamin every day, according to a report published by two Harvard doctors in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2002;287:3127–9). This recommendation is based on research demonstrating that taking a multivitamin may help prevent a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, some cancers, and osteoporosis.

In a recent issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, two Harvard researchers report on which vitamins work and which ones don't in the fight against heart disease and cancer.

  • Eating right keeps you healthy and gives you the complex vitamins your body needs to fight off cellular changes that lead to cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis, according to Robert H. Fletcher, MD, MSC, and Kathleen M. Fairfield, MD, Dr PH, both with  the Harvard Medical School.

  • Virtually everyone in the general population is at risk, because we don't eat right, Fletcher and Fairfield say.  The elderly, vegans, and alcoholics are at even higher risk. Multivitamin supplements play an important role in shoring up this deficiency.  

  • "We recommend that all adults take one multivitamin daily," writes Fletcher. "This practice is justified mainly by the known and suspected benefits of supplemental Folate and vitamins B-12, B-6, and D in preventing [heart disease and stroke], cancer, and osteoporosis, and because multivitamins at that dose are safe and inexpensive."

After reviewing almost 40 years of research, the Harvard doctors found the following associations between certain diseases and vitamins:

  • Heart disease -- Low folic acid levels in the blood increase the risk of heart disease. Taking folic acid supplements or eating more in the diet has been shown to help decrease this risk. Research on vitamin E has been conflicting -- with some studies showing a benefit and others not. Beta carotene supplements have not been shown to help prevent heart disease -- and may even increase the risk in smokers.

  • Cancer -- Studies have shown a decrease in colon cancer in men and women taking folic acid supplements.  Folic acid has also been shown to decrease breast cancer in women who drink alcohol regularly but not in nondrinkers. Vitamin E may be able to help decrease prostate cancer in men and deaths from this cancer. Lycopene from tomatoes has been shown to help prevent prostate cancer as well

  • Osteoporosis -- Vitamin D along with calcium decreases bone loss and fractures in elderly people.

  • Birth defects -- Folic acid decreases the risk of birth defects of the spinal cord. Doctors recommend that women begin taking folic acid supplements before getting pregnant.

The researchers recommend a daily multivitamin for all adults.   Eating right is always the best choice.  However, in today’s busy world, that’s easier said than done.  

Food sources for some of the important vitamins:

  • Folate -- dark-green leafy vegetables (like spinach), whole-grain cereals, fortified grain products (like bread and cereal), and lean meat

  • Vitamin B-6 -- poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, potatoes, and whole grains

  • Vitamin B-12 -- poultry, fish, eggs, milk

  • Vitamin E -- salad oils, margarine, legumes, nuts

  • Vitamin C—fruits and vegetables

Can we get all of the vitamins and minerals that we need from our food today?

  • There are more farming problems today than in the past due to the destructive farming practices.

  • The U.S. topsoil is substandard and depleted of nutrients due to the following reasons.

  1.  Predominant use of inorganic salt fertilizers—These are fertilizers used for crop nutrients especially phosphates from left over explosives and ammunitions from W W II.

  2. Discontinuation of using animal fertilizers—Animal fertilizers replenish the trace minerals back into the soil.

  3. Soil tilling practices--Many farmers today are not tilling the crop residuals back into the soil. 

  4. Destruction of the normal microorganisms--Due to synthetic chemicals use for killing weeds and pest control there has been adverse effects on healthy humus formation in the topsoil.  These same chemicals have  also altered the Ph of the topsoil affecting the availability of nutrients.

  5. Burning techniques used on crop residuals instead of plowing the organic residuals back into the earth.

  • Other factors contributing to lack of nutrients in our diet:

  1.  To prevent spoilage fruits and vegetables have to be picked before they are ripe. A good example would be tomatoes, oranges and bananas. When fruits and vegetables are picked before they’re ripe, the powerful antioxidants that are contained in the skin and the pulp are not allowed to express themselves completely. It’s the ripening on the vine and the branch that allows this process to occur.

  2. Most produce and perishable items have to be shipped and stored for months.  Various methods that prevent the oxidation or rotting of food now include radiation.  When you eat your apple today think about when those apples were picked?

  3. The idea that you can eat 5 to 7 fruits and vegetables a day may sound like a great idea, but unless the fruits and vegetables are FRESH, picked ripe, and delivered to your table within hours, you are not getting full nutritional value.  Those fruits and vegetables lack the protection from the antioxidants that you think you are getting  It’s been reported that only 4% of the American public eat 5 to 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  Even if you are eating right, many people have digestive problems that prohibit the absorption of the nutrients from the gut into the blood stream.

  4. In today’s society the population base is no longer rural and the food that you are eating is no longer grown locally like it was fifty or one hundred years ago. One hundred years ago people died from infectious diseases, today they are plagued with chronic degenerative diseases that modern medicine has little effect on. There are so many people that have been ill for so long that they don’t know what it is like to feel good.  Today diabetes is an epidemic.  How are they attempting to solve the problem?  With a more efficient method of administering insulin?  Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on the diet and prevent it? Diabetes is not an infection. Type II diabetes is not an insulin problem.

  • Food processing destroys nutrients.

  1. A good example would be processed white flour, processed wheat or  (bleached flour) loses the following minerals
                Calcium loss           60%
                Magnesium loss      85%
                Cobalt loss              88%

  2. Over cooking of food destroys minerals and enzymes.
    Temperatures over 120 degrees destroy minerals and enzymes. Did       our early ancestors charbroil all of the meat they ate?  Did they steam their vegetables?  Did the Eskimos and the Japanese eat their fish deep fat fried in transfatty acids to a crisp?  Or, did they eat it raw? Microwaving also destroys many of the minerals.

  3. Prescription drugs will affect the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

The difference between a vitamin and mineral vs. a prescription drug is that vitamins and minerals are tolerated over a very wide dosage range. Vitamins and minerals are involved in a wide variety of activities in the body and they are constantly being used up. Minerals are ESSENTIAL to good health.  The body does not make them. They have to be obtained from the food you eat or supplements.

Prescription medications do not have biochemical roles in the body the way vitamins and minerals do. Drugs are foreign to the body, when their job is done they are usually eliminated.

Efficacy of Antioxidants

Antioxidants protect normal cells and other tissues by fighting free radicals and the oxidative reaction that free radicals cause. Antioxidant nutrients include beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, selenuim, copper, zinc and bioflavonoids.   There are now more than 200 studies that show antioxidants can help decrease the risk of developing cancer.

One of the most recent investigations took place in Linxian, China.  Researchers from the Cancer Institute of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences teamed up with researchers at the United States National Cancer Institute.  They studied nearly 30,000 adults, randomized over a five-year period in four group receiving different nutrients during that period.  Here are the results of the studies:

  • It was the first large-scale intervention trial in a prospective randomized fashion to demonstrate that three antioxidant nutrients together-beta-carotene, vitamin E, and selenium—significantly reduced total mortality, and especially from all cancers and particularly stomach cancer.

  • Antioxidant nutrients decreased the risk of cancer in humans.

  • Antioxidant nutrients substantially reduced the prevalence of cataracts in the older patients (aged 65 to 74 years).

  • Antioxidant nutrients reduced mortality from stroke.

New Study Shows Benefit of Multi-vitamins

Researchers at Tufts University in Boston say taking a daily multivitamin is a good idea.

  • In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers found healthy men and women who took one multivitamin a day experienced a rise in blood levels of several vitamins and minerals -- an increase high enough to reduce the risk of some long-term problems like heart disease and osteoporosis.

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Disclaimer:  The information provided by this service is intended to serve as a recommendation for people who desire to learn more about health, fitness, nutrition, and taking care of their bodies.  Before beginning any vitamin program, always consult your doctor.  Certain conditions may restrict some individuals from taking vitamins, so be sure to clear yourself with your doctor.