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SupplementsSupplements for Good Health

Want to promote long-term health and prevent debilitating chronic disease? Try adding four nutritional supplements to your daily diet. A report from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) indicates that daily use of vitamin E, vitamin C, calcium, and a multivitamin with folic acid could cut the risk of having a heart attack by 40 percent, protect vision during aging, prevent 50,000 hip fractures annually, and reduce by more than half the number of babies born every year with neural tube birth defects like spinal bifida.

"We now have a substantial body of data showing that if everyone took a few supplements every day, they could significantly lower their risk of a multitude of serious diseases," said David Heber, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Studies show supplements could be helpful in protecting against a host of ailments including:

Heart Disease
Recent epidemiological studies involving more than 100,000 people found those taking at least 100 international units (IU) of vitamin E every day reduced the risk of heart disease by 40 percent.

~In a clinical trial involving people with a history of heart disease, 400-800 IU of vitamin E per day reduced the risk of new heart attacks by 75 percent. Studies indicate that more than $10 billion in health care costs could be saved annually if people took at least 100 IU of vitamin E on a regular long-term basis.

~A survey of cardiologists published in The American Journal of Cardiology revealed that 44 percent were routinely taking antioxidant vitamins. Among these supplements users, 90 percent were taking vitamin E.

~A study in the February 1998 Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) indicated that using multivitamins with folic acid lowered homocysteine levels and reduced the risk of heart disease in women by 45 percent. Another study estimated that folic acid could help avoid as many as 56,000 deaths per year due to heart disease.

Increased calcium has been shown to be protective against bone loss and could potentially prevent 50,000 hip fractures a year. The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Institute of Medicine recently increased daily calcium requirements for older adults by 50 percent to 1200 milligrams and increased vitamin D intakes by 100 percent to 10 micrograms (400 IU), following a reevaluation of evidence linking both nutrients to bone health.

Birth Defects
Multivitamin supplements with folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects like spinal bifida. The protective effect is seen when a supplement of 0.4 milligrams is consumed in addition of the usual diet.

Vision Loss
Several antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may help significantly prevent or delay development of cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

~Recent studies have shown that men and women who take supplements, including vitamin C and E, have a 50-70 percent lower risk of developing cataracts compared to people who take no supplements. Studies demonstrate that these supplements could delay the onset of cataracts by 10 years.

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