Benefits of Supplementation are Evident with Age. Part I

Statistic information about the evolution of some diseases and changes in causes of mortality.

Can we live forever? Probably not, but we may be able to enhance the quality and quantity of our lives.

Consider this: At the turn of the last century, the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States were infectious diseases such as pneumonia, diphtheria, and tuberculosis. This profile has changed dramatically within the last few generations. Currently, the leading causes of death in the United States are chronic diseases. In fact, chronic illness affects 45 percent of the population – 100 million individuals – and accounts for 85 percent of national health expenditures, $659 billion annually.

By the year 2030, costs of treatment for chronic diseases are expected to reach $800 billion.

Numerous reasons account for the change in causes of mortality. Improvements in public hygiene, the discovery of antibiotics, and other medical interventions have controlled or eradicated some infectious conditions. However, our declining rates of infection cannot solely explain our increased incidence of chronic diseases.

Nutritional state of the nation

In 1977-78, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) surveyed 21,500 individuals to determine their average daily nutrient intake. The results of this study were sobering:
•    Only three percent of the population ate the recommended number of servings from the four food groups.
•    Only 12 percent of the population consumed 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for all seven of the following nutrients: protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin C.
•    Not a single person consumed 100 percent of the RDA for all 10 of the following nutrients: vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin C.

A follow-up survey in 1987-88 revealed similar results. More than 80 percent of women and more than 70 percent of men consumed less than two-thirds of the RDA for one or more nutrients. And, as of 1994, Americans remain deficient in at least a dozen essential nutrients, according to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Nearly 50% of all deaths in the United States are lifestyle-related. Read full article

The causes of nutrient deficiencies are multifaceted: They include poor food quality, poor food choices, and attendant conditions such as pregnancy, lactation, age, smoking status, and income level.

The effects of nutrient deficiencies are equally complex. They may result in degenerative conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.

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Benefits of supplementation
It is already well-known and well-documented that vitamin C deficiencies are related to scurvy, thiamin deficiencies to beriberi, and niacin deficiencies to pellagra. What is less widely known – but equally well-documented – is that nutritional supplementation can actually prevent or improve a variety of debilitating conditions.

For example:
•    Research suggests that if all women of childbearing age used multivitamins with folic acid, it would be possible to reduce the current incidence of neural tube defects by 50 percent or more. In 1992, 4,600 babies were born with a primary diagnosis of neural tube defects, representing hospital costs of $141 million.
•    Among the elderly, the routine use of multivitamin/mineral supplements has been shown to improve immune function and thus reduce the risk of infectious disease.
•    Supplemental calcium and vitamin D can reduce the rate of hip fracture by up to 20 percent.
•    Regular use of antioxidant supplements, including vitamin C and vitamin E, can delay the onset and progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
•    Long-term vitamin E supplementation has been shown to reduce the incidence of and mortality from heart disease.
•    Studies suggest that up to $8.4 billion could be saved if people took at least 100 IU per day of vitamin E on a long-term basis.
•    Increased fiber intake protects against cancer as well as heart disease.
•    Solid evidence suggests that vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and folic acid reduce the risk of stomach cancer and some other cancers.

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