I firmly believe that a high-potency daily multivitamin is a cornerstone of good health. It fills gaps in our diets and prevents deficiencies by shoring up stores of protective nutrients. Moreover, as Bruce Ames, PhD, one of America’s best-known and most-respected scientists, also believes, a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement could be your best protection against age-related disease.
He postulates in his “triage theory” that when micronutrients are in short supply, the body allocates scarce resources to activities necessary for short-term survival, such as energy production, blood circulation, and brain function. This leaves other, less vital processes—DNA and mitochondrial repair, for example—to bear the brunt of the deficiencies. Over time, Dr. Ames maintains, cumulative damage and disruptions in metabolism lead to diseases of aging.
I wholeheartedly agree with this theory. Hundreds of thousands of studies support the role of micronutrient deficiencies in a wide range of health problems. Calcium and osteoporosis, magnesium and heart disease, potassium and hypertension—the list goes on and on. So if you’re not already taking a daily multi, I suggest adding this to your list of New Year’s resolutions.
If you’re still not convinced of the importance of a high-potency daily multivitamin, here are five examples of how taking one can help promote optimal health.
- Prevent heart attacks. Swedish scientists looked at the diets, lifestyles, and supplement intakes of more than 31,000 women who were initially free of cardiovascular disease and followed them for about 10 years. The women who took a multivitamin were, on average, 27 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who didn’t. Fewer than five years of supplement use reduced heart attack risk by 18 percent, while 10 or more years slashed risk by 41 percent.
- Protect against cataracts. In the Physicians’ Health Study, which followed 17,744 doctors for several years, those taking multivitamins had a 27 percent decreased risk of forming cataracts.
- Boost mood. British researchers enrolled 225 hospitalized patients, average age 75, and gave half of them a supplement providing 100 percent of the British equivalent of the RDAs. The other half received a placebo, and both groups were fed a normal hospital diet. When they were retested after six weeks, significant improvements in mood were noted in the supplement group, regardless of their initial level of depression.
- Stop telomere erosion. Chromosomes are tightly coiled, rod-like structures made up of proteins and one double-helix–shaped molecule of DNA encoded with your genome: the blueprints for your growth, development, and physiological function. And at the tips of every chromosome are protective “caps” called telomeres.
Telomeres naturally get shorter as we age, but not at the same rate in all individuals. Some of these differences can be chalked up to genetics, but other factors accelerate telomere shortening. Free radical damage and chronic inflammation—long known to be associated with aging at the cellular level—speed it up, as do smoking, heavy drinking, and obesity.
Telomeres and telomerase, the enzyme that builds them, are intimately involved in aging, degeneration, and death, so it’s not surprising that many age-related diseases are associated with telomere shortening.
The good news is that multivitamins appear to help slow and even reverse telomere erosion. A research team at the National Institutes of Health found that women who took daily multivitamin supplements had longer telomeres. They also found a link to higher intakes of vitamins C and E.
- Enhance weight loss. While there’s no “magic bullet” for weight loss, some research suggests a multi can help enhance your efforts.
In a randomized, double-blind study, Chinese researchers divided obese women into three groups and gave them either a multivitamin and mineral supplement, a calcium supplement, or a placebo daily for 26 weeks. At the end of the study, the women who took the multivitamin and mineral supplement lost an average of 7.9 pounds, compared to 2 pounds for those taking calcium and half a pound in the placebo group.
Now it’s your turn: Do you take a high-potency daily multivitamin?