The need for vitamin supplements.

The May 2009 issue of Discover magazine (May 2009, pg. 14) reports that fruits and vegetables sold in the United States are becoming less nutritious. Agricultural and likely distribution has favoured quantity at the loss of quality.

Other reasons to be concerned about the level of nutrition we realize - the level of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients we actually absorb and are available to support metabolic function - range from food selection, storage, processing and cooking, digestion and absorption, and how lifestyle issues of stress, antibiotics, smoking and alcohol consumption.

The leading indicator of adult onset disease is being over weight. It is wise then to manage our calorie (food energy) intake. Yet to balance off calorie consumption in our generally sedentary culture, it becomes hard to meet our nutritional (food quality) needs by diet alone.

(Many people can count the number of steps they take in a day to under a thousand, compared with the old order Amish farmer who may count 50,000! The Amish farmer may consume in excess of 5,000 calories each day, but stays slim by working them off....and consumes enough food in variety to meet nutritional needs beyond calorie consumption. Just an extra 100 calories a day adds up to putting on 1 pound a month!)

The issue becomes compounded as we age. Our need for food energy decreases yet the need for nutrient increases.

What then is a conscientious person to do to promote better health?

Make a reasonable effort to eat food with good nutritional quality. There is some merit to the idea of eating produce from local sources as it is likely fresher and not artificially ripened in a box car. ((And you support your local economy.) Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains ... less meat, dairy and egg. How much more fruits, veggies and grains? More than you eat now. How much less meat, dairy and egg? Less than you are now. Comparing the healthfulness of raw and cooked food is complicated, and there are still many mysteries surrounding how the different molecules in plants interact with the human body. The bottom line is to eat your veggies and fruits no matter how they're prepared. Have a varied diet. Exercise often...

It is likely necessary to take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that nutrition needs are being met.

The following article, dated Dec 17, states that multivitamins do not provide a protective effect for people who are well nourished. I do however question how well nourished the average person is considering limitations in our diet and lifestyle. The reason then for taking multivitamins is to ensure a more optimal nutrition. 

Multivitamins a ‘waste’ of money for general population, reports suggest

Taking a multivitamin every day doesn’t seem to ward off thinking and memory problems. Nor will it prevent further heart disease or death among people who have already had a heart attack.

Those findings come from two reports published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The studies represent the latest in a growing body of evidence suggesting the popular supplements probably aren’t doing most users a lot of good.
“People over time and particularly people in the United States have been led to believe that vitamin and mineral supplements will make them healthier, and they’re looking for a magic pill,” Dr. Cynthia Mulrow said.

But such a pill doesn’t exist, said Mulrow, a senior deputy editor at the journal who co-wrote an editorial published with the new research.

“People . . . should be active, should not (overeat), should avoid excessive alcohol and should not be spending money on these pills, these vitamins and minerals,” she told Reuters Health.

The studies follow a review of earlier research published online last month. It found multivitamins had no effect on heart disease and possibly a small effect on cancer risk, but only among men.

To look at whether vitamins affect thinking and memory skills, researchers randomly assigned about 6,000 older male doctors to take either a standard multivitamin or vitamin-free placebo as part of a larger men’s health study. Then they gave the men up to four memory tests over the next 12 years.
Howard Sesso from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and his colleagues found no cognitive differences between the vitamin and placebo groups at any time point. Nor did scores on the memory tests drop any faster among men in one group versus the other.

The second new study included both men and women who’d had a heart attack. About 1,700 of them were randomly assigned to take supplements – this time high doses of vitamins and minerals – or placebo pills.

Over an average of four and a half years, 27 per cent of people taking vitamins died or had another heart attack or other cardiovascular problem. That compared to 30 per cent of participants taking placebos – a difference that could have been due to chance.

People in that study had to take six vitamin pills a day and many weren’t so good about sticking to that regimen, researchers led by Dr. Gervasio Lamas of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida, wrote. That could have influenced the results.

“As of now, there is no need to be taking multivitamins and multiminerals to prevent heart disease and there is extensive evidence on that,” Lamas told Reuters Health.

“For the general population who (is healthy) and they are taking vitamins because they are thinking that somehow the vitamins are going to make them do better, people are entitled to waste their money in any way that they like,” he said.

Americans spent $28-billion on supplements in 2010, Mulrow and her colleagues noted.

Neither study found side effects tied to multivitamin use. So people probably aren’t hurting themselves by taking multivitamins, especially in standard doses, researchers said.

Sesso said because of the possible cancer-related benefits tied to multivitamins, they are still worth considering – in particular for people who may not get enough vitamins in their diet.

A prior study by his team found an 8 per cent lower risk of cancer among men assigned to take multivitamins, as well as a lower risk of cataracts.

“We really need to manage our expectations about why we’re taking multivitamins,” Duffy MacKay, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), said.
CRN is a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers.

He said the main reasons people report talking multivitamins are for overall health and wellness and to fill nutrient gaps.

Research shows Americans often don’t get all recommended nutrients from their diets, and that a multivitamin helps fill those gaps, MacKay told Reuters Health.

“That’s reason alone that a multivitamin should be consumed,” he said.

“It’s ultimately an individual decision,” Sesso told Reuters Health.

Considering how many people take multivitamins – up to half of all U.S. adults – he said there’s still a need for more research on their effects.

Mulrow had a different perspective. Based on the research that has been done and the lack of general benefit, she questioned whether any more money should be spent on studying vitamin supplements.
“We think we shouldn’t be doing a lot more studies on most of these,” she said.

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