Vitamins & Supplements Archive

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Vitamin D and the big C

New research has found an association between high and low levels of vitamin D and cancer risk. However, many older adults don’t get the recommended daily amount of 600 to 800 international units, as the main sources of vitamin D are sun exposure (which many people try to avoid) and certain foods, like fatty fish, fortified milk and cereal. Getting vitamin D levels checked to find a possible deficiency can reveal if someone needs more vitamin D, which may require taking a daily supplement.

5 important blood tests beyond the basics

Five blood tests beyond basic blood work may be worth pursuing for older adults. For example, a test to determine one’s vitamin B12 level might be helpful, since older adults sometimes have trouble absorbing that vitamin. Likewise, older adults have less ability to absorb sunlight through the skin, which may lead to less production of vitamin D. Other blood tests to consider include those for HIV or hepatitis C infection, and a test to measure fasting blood sugar.

Fruit of the month: Stone fruits

Peaches, nectarines, apricots, peaches, plums, and cherries are considered stone fruits because they all contain large, hard seeds or pits. They’re all decent sources of fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium.

Advisory group: Too soon to recommend routine vitamin D screening

An advisory group finds there is not enough evidence to recommend routine screening for vitamin D deficiency.

Facts about fiber

Fiber improves digestion and may help lower a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But according to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most people meet only half their daily fiber needs. The main reason is not following a basic healthy diet with foods high in fiber. Making small changes in dietary habits and adopting new fiber-rich foods can help people reach their quota.

Vitamin D supplements may reduce risk of invasive cancer

A study published online Nov. 2, 2020, by JAMA Network Open found that healthy-weight people ages 50 or older who took a daily 2,000-IU vitamin D supplement had a lower risk for developing advanced or fatal cancer, compared with people who didn’t take the supplement.

Are you taking too many supplements?

Taking too many dietary supplements can lead to potential problems. Examples include medication interference, difficulty managing a complicated regimen, missed prescription medication doses, and overdoing it on nutrient intake. It’s not that all supplements are without benefits. For some people, specific supplements may offer some chance of benefit, and little risk. But going overboard can be risky. It’s important to speak with a doctor before starting a supplement to make sure it won’t interfere with one’s health or current medications.

Are you wasting money on supplements?

Taking multivitamins doesn’t prevent heart attacks or strokes, and most dietary supplements (such as fish oil, red yeast rice, and coenzyme Q10) offer no or limited benefits for avoiding heart-related problems. For people who don’t have heart disease, eating two servings of fatty fish weekly or following a healthy vegetarian diet rich in nuts, legumes, and healthy oils makes more sense than spending money on over-the-counter fish oil supplements. People with heart disease would be better off asking their doctor about the prescription drug icosapent ethyl (Vascepa), a high-dose, purified EPA that lowers cardiovascular risk when taken with a statin.

Bleeding gums? You may need more vitamin C

In the journals

Bleeding gums are a sign of gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease, but they may also signal low vitamin C in your diet, suggests a study published online Feb. 1, 2021, by Nutrition Reviews. Researchers examined 15 published studies involving 1,140 healthy people as well as data on 8,210 people from the CDC's Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that low vitamin C levels in the bloodstream were associated with an increased risk for gum bleeding with gentle probing. The researchers also observed that increasing vitamin C intake may help resolve the problem.

Increased bleeding in general is one of the symptoms of scurvy, a disease caused by severe vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy, which often affected 18th-century sailors without access to fruits and vegetables, is rare today. Still, this new study sheds light on a potential cause of gum bleeding related to vitamin C levels that are only slightly low — not enough to cause scurvy.

Omega-3 fatty acids and the heart: New evidence, more questions

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil have been recommended by the American Heart Association for the past 20 years to reduce cardiovascular events in people who already have cardiovascular disease. But the results of studies of omega-3 supplements have been mixed, leaving both doctors and patients still wondering what to do.

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