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Supplements: Why Bother?

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Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about difficult questions that will arise as we age, but sometimes it makes for an interesting exercise.

For example, have you ever asked yourself, “How much time am I willing to spend being disabled at the end of my life?” (Disabled meaning that you are not able to carry out the functions associated with normal daily living.) What is an acceptable answer? Two days? Two weeks? Two months?  For each person it is different, but I certainly think that most people would like to keep that time frame to a minimum.

Just for some perspective, the average term of disability in the U.S. before death is 11 years! By contrast, in Japan, the average term of disability before death is 3 weeks, and life expectancy is 8-10 years longer! Doesn’t that sound like a better option?

I am sure some of the reasons related to this discrepancy are fundamentally rooted in the type of lifestyle we Americans have adopted. Most people have completely lost the firm grounding that our forebearers had when it comes to an active lifestyle and healthy diet. Even if we are cooking recipes that our grandmother taught us, it is very likely we are using ingredients that are far inferior to the ones she used when our food supply was significantly richer in nutrients.

Over 60,000 new chemicals have been introduced to our food in the past 65 years. By that fact alone, it is easy to see how much our food supply has changed in a relatively short period of time. In addition to this, we have the problem of soil depletion to deal with. Modern industrial farming methods strip our land of the vital minerals and nutrients that make food medicine.

So are we all doomed to experience suboptimal health as we age? How can we contend with the lack of nutrition present in our food supply to ensure that we don’t spend our “golden years” sick or disabled?

It is possible to adjust human metabolism through diet and nutrient supplementation, thereby minimizing damage to chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA, optimizing health and thus prolonging quality of life. Further, minimizing DNA damage should reduce the risk and delay the onset of certain types of cancers and other degenerative diseases of aging. Some examples of well studied micronutrient deficiencies relating to DNA damage and the onset of certain conditions are: folic acid deficiencies linked to colon cancer; B12 deficiencies linked to neuronal damage and brain dysfunction; zinc deficiencies and immune dysfunction; vitamin E deficiencies doubling risk for colon cancer and increasing risk for heart disease — the list goes on and on.

It is estimated that 50% of all Americans have nutritional deficiencies that impair optimal function of the body and brain. A University of North Carolina study showed that daily multivitamins taken for one year boosted immune function and cut infections by 40% in diabetics and 50% in the elderly.

The Cache County study, which followed 4,700 participants and is considered a very good study when looking at Alzheimer’s disease, showed that use of vitamins E and C as supplements in combination lowered odds of Alzheimer’s disease by 64-78%.

A University of Wisconsin study found that elderly individuals who had been taking a multivitamin for 10 or more years had their risk for cataracts slashed by 60%. Pretty impressive when you consider that cataract surgery is the third most significant expense for Medicare, racking up a $3.4 billion dollar bill in 2001. It makes spending $30-$50 a month on a multivitamin look like chump change.

And to top it all off, we can look at the landmark article published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2002 that announced that all adults should take vitamin supplements to help prevent chronic disease. In case you are interested, here is the exact text:

“Suboptimal folic acid levels, along with suboptimal levels of vitamins B6 and B12, are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, neural tube defects, and colon and breast cancer;  low levels of vitamin D contribute to osteopenia and fractures; and low levels of the antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A, E, and C) may increase risk for several chronic diseases.  Most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone…..it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.”

So if you answered anything less than 11 years to the question of how long you want to be disabled before you die, I suggest you start improving your lifestyle with more exercise and a better diet, and I recommend that you start taking vitamins to prolong the quality of your life.


Dr. Passero completed four years of post-graduate medical education at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado. Dr. Passero has trained with some of the nation’s leading doctors in the field of natural medicine. In his practice, Dr. Passero focuses on restoring harmony to both the body and mind using advanced protocols that incorporate herbal therapy, homeopathy, vitamin therapy and nutritional programs. Through education and guidance patients are able to unlock the natural healing power contained within each one of us. For more information, visit his website, Green Healing Wellness, or follow him on Facebook.


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5 responses to “Supplements: Why Bother?”

  1. Sue says:

    Great Article. I can’t believe how much better I feel when I am in a healthy daily routine. I’ve been taking quality multivitamins for nearly 4 years now and have only been sick once during that time.Taking care of yourself with healthy eating, exercise and good quality vitamins isn’t always easy, but it’s WORTH IT!

  2. What an enlightening article. I’ve been following a primarily whole food diet for about five years with minimal processed food and add supplements where I feel l need it, like fish oil and probiotics. When I think about my health prior to my whole food diet and life, I’m a whole new person. I also staunchly believe that we don’t have to be debilitated when we’re 70 or 80. It is truly dependent on how we choose to deal with stress and care for our bodies now. We are in charge of our own future and well being.

  3. BethF says:

    I am a firm believer in vitamins and supplements. I can actually feel a difference when I don’t take them.nnI love Stop Aging Now’s BASIC multivitamin formula because it’s just 2 pills per day! (www.stopagingnow.com/MNB/Multi-Nutrient-BASIC-2-A-Day-Multivitamin)

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