Poor diet and illness can leave many older adults with depleted stores of nutrients in their blood. But a new study suggests that taking a multivitamin each day can improve levels of many important nutrients, thereby lowering their risk of chronic disease.
Researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston studied 80 adults aged 50 to 87. For 8 weeks, individuals consumed either a daily multivitamin pill that contained 100% of the recommended levels for many vitamins and minerals, or a placebo (inactive) pill. Researchers measured blood levels of several nutrients as well as levels of immune system compounds. The investigators also determined the ability of these nutrients to fight harmful free radicals.
Adults who took the multivitamin had higher levels of vitamins B6, B12, C, D, E and riboflavin but there was no difference in immune system function or antioxidant capacity. Researchers suspect that the duration of the study was probably too short to see any effect on immune function. The dose of antioxidant vitamins and minerals in the multivitamin pill were probably too low to boost antioxidant capacity.
These results suggest that the 40% to 60% of older North Americans who do take multivitamins are probably helping to promote their long-term health.
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