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Supplements to Prevent Fractures?

Supplementation with calcium and/or vitamin D did not reduce fracture risk in older adults.

Contrary to current opinion, a systematic review of 33 randomized trials in about 50,000 community-living adults over 50 years old found no benefit for supplementation of vitamin D and/or calcium. This study strongly supports the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce in not recommending calcium or vitamin D supplementation in this population.

PositiveTip: Get your vitamin D from adequate sun exposure, exercise daily, and include plenty of calcium rich foods in your diet.

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Vitamin D Supplementation and Fall Risk

High doses of Vitamin D increase the risk of falls in the elderly.

Swiss researchers evaluated monthly high-dose vitamin D supplementation in 200 adults 70 years and older with a history of a fall in the past year. They were randomized to receive one of three monthly regimens, including the control group. At 12 months, lower extremity function was the same in all groups, but fall rates were higher except in the control group. An editorial suggested those over 70 should consume 800 IU daily of vitamin D, preferably from a balanced diet.

PositiveTip: Adequate exposure to sunlight daily, combined with a balanced diet is important to assure sufficient vitamin D.

Live Longer with Lower Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D written in sand

Studies of the role of vitamin D in human physiology indicate that vitamin D is involved in bone formation, the growth and development of immune cells, and stimulation or inhibition of blood vessels in cancer. Those who have lower levels of vitamin D are found to have higher death rates from heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and several kinds of cancer. Low vitamin D levels also adversely affect, multiple sclerosis, allergies, asthma, infections, and depression.

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Value of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Questioned

Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation found of no benefit in diabetics.

Many people take omega-3 fatty acid supplements hoping to reduce their risk of adverse cardiovascular events. However, recent research suggests that these supplements may have little value. A group of 12,500 well-controlled diabetic patients who received 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acid or a placebo demonstrated no differences after 6 years of follow-up. These findings are consistent with a meta-analysis of patients, with or without diabetes, showing no benefit to supplementation.

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Formula Supplemented With Fatty Acids Offers Little Benefit

Adding DHA and AA to infant formula yields no significant benefit.

A meta-analysis by researchers at Yale University shows that infant formula supplemented with long-chain polyunstatured fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA), was no better than other formulas for infant cognition. The Yale researchers compared supplemented and unsupplemented soy and cow's milk-based formulas.

PositiveTip: Through the first year, breastfeeding is the optimal infant nutrition. If you must use formula, fatty acid supplemented formula appears to provide no advantage.

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Less May Be More!

Study finds vitamin and mineral supplementation may be counterproductive.

Although a healthy diet provides sufficient vitamins and minerals, many individuals take vitamin and mineral supplements hoping to further improve their health and prevent disease. A large, 19 year observational study of postmenopausal women has found that taking common vitamin supplements may actually shorten life instead. After controlling for confounders, absolute risk increased from 2.4% for multivitamins to 18% for copper.

PositiveTip: Supplements do not add to the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and may have unwanted consequences.


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Don't Count on Supplements to Prevent Chronic Disease!

High selenium status increases risk of high cholesterol and diabetes.

Selenium, an essential element necessary for proper cellular function, has recently become a popular supplement thought to have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. A new British study has linked high levels of selenium to increased levels of total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. The U.K. has lower selenium status that the U.S. making it a good place for a study like this. High selenium status has also recently been linked to a higher incidence of diabetes.