Dietary Supplements Essential to Health of Seniors
Supplements Achieve Growing Recognition Among Scientific and Government Leaders
As the American population ages, a rapidly growing body of evidence shows that dietary supplements significantly improve the health of senior citizens. And diverse leaders - from the scientific community to the U.S. government - are recognizing the important contributions dietary supplements make to seniors' health.
The latest Census data reports that 35 million persons in the United States are over the age of 65 and that number is expected to grow to one in five persons over 65 by 2010. According to recent surveys, as many as 40 percent of the nation's elderly are afflicted with nutritional deficiencies. Conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, declines in memory, decreased immunity to illness and other maladies once viewed as normal signs of aging have now been linked to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.
Three recent clinical studies find that dietary supplements can treat nutritional deficiencies in the elderly and boost their immune systems, combat short-term memory loss, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and improve seniors' overall health.
?Ranjit Kumar Chandra, M.D. of Memorial University of Newfoundland conducted a year-long study of 86 persons over the age of 65. His findings, as published in the September 2001 issue of Nutrition, show that a supplement with moderate amounts of 18 vitamins, minerals and trace elements improves the short-term memory and overall cognitive abilities of seniors, and greatly strengthens their immune systems. Dr. Chandra also suggests that supplements may prevent serious neurological damage and disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
?A separate study led by Hui-Zin Wang, M.D at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and published in the May 2001 issue of Neurology also links poor nutrition to Alzheimer's disease. This study followed 370 elderly adults aged 75 and over for three years, and found that seniors with low blood levels of folate and vitamin B12 have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
?A study published in the August 2001 issue of Nutrition by Teresa A. Marshall, M.D. and colleagues at the University of Iowa found that nutritional deficiencies greatly increase with age, and that supplement use would eliminate these deficiencies in the elderly. Dr. Marshall studied 420 persons over the age of 78 and found 80 percent of those seniors consumed inadequate amounts of four or more nutrients. Eighty-three percent consumed too little vitamin D and 63 percent did not consume enough calcium, both necessary for preventing osteoporosis and fractures and preserving bone mass. Seventy-five percent reported not getting enough folate, important for heart disease and stroke prevention.
Despite this mounting evidence, many seniors are not seeking medical advice about supplementation. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that those over 65 are the age group that is least likely to discuss dietary supplements with their doctors.