Studies reveal new benefits from taking vitamins

Studies reveal new benefits from taking vitamins

Supplements suppliers' leaders have hailed the publication of three new studies in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a publication from the Journal of the American Medical Association, which they say further reinforce the important role vitamins can play as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The first study1 suggests women with higher intakes of calcium from both food and supplements—up to 1,300mg/day — appear to have a lower risk of cancer overall, and both men and women with high calcium intakes have lower risks of colorectal cancer and other cancers of the digestive system.

A second study2 shows that women who took a combination of B vitamins, including folic acid (2.5 mg/day), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6, 50 mg/day) and cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12, 1 mg/day), decreased their risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe irreversible vision loss for older Americans.

The third study3 suggests that higher blood levels of vitamin D are inversely associated with the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections.

"These results are encouraging and may lead us in new directions of research," said Andrew Shao, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, for the Washington DC-based Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

We've known for many years that these essential nutrients play important roles in health—vitamin D and calcium for bone health and folic acid for the prevention of neural tube birth defects—but these latest studies suggest new and exciting benefits that need further exploration."

Commenting on the first study, Shao said: "What this means for consumers is that there may be benefits to calcium supplementation that go beyond bone health. But more research is still needed to help explain the observed differences in gender and to better assess the effects on other non-digestive cancers.

"It's also interesting to point out that the women in this study who had the highest calcium intakes—and lower risks of cancer—had lower body mass indexes, tended to be physically active and were less likely to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. This further reinforces the notion that good health is truly a combination of overall healthy practices—and vitamins and other supplements are an important part of that formula."

Of the second study, he said: "This is very promising news for the millions of older Americans who may be at risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Currently, there are very few treatment options available for AMD, so prevention is key. The results of this study suggest that B vitamins could be combined with other supplemental nutrients including the antioxidants, vitamins C and E and carotenoids beta-carotene and lutein, which have also been shown to lower the risk of AMD."

And of the third, he stated: "The majority of Americans continue to fall short in getting adequate amounts of vitamin D through diet alone. Given that vitamin D is relatively low in most foods, and there are serious risks associated with excessive sun exposure, dietary supplements are an important alternative to achieving a sufficient intake. While this study on its own does not mean that higher vitamin D intake will ensure that you don't get an upper respiratory tract infection this winter, it is consistent with, and adds to, the relatively new body of evidence showing that vitamin D plays a critical role in immune function."

Shao concluded: "The bottom line for consumers is that vitamins are an important component of good health. Science is an evolving process, and this recent good news about vitamins should certainly be encouraging to consumers, particularly those who take them consistently over the long-term in combination with other healthy habits."

1. Park Y, Leitzmann M, Subar A, et al. Dairy Food, Calcium and Risk of Cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009; 169 (4):391-401.
2. Christen W, Glynn R, Chew E, et al. Folic Acid, Pyridoxine, and Cyanocobalamin Combination Treatment and Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women: The Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009; 169 (4):335-341.
3. Ginde A, Mansbach J, Camargo C. Association Between Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Level and Upper Respiratory Tract Infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009; 169 (4):384-390.

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