Because of these deficiencies, millions of older adults are turning (rightfully) to the supplement world. Not only do they bring you required levels of nutrients, but they are also touted as fighting the diseases that are the leading causes of disability as the body ages.
As you’ll see here, the evidence is very mixed and the jury is still out in some respects. Let’s take a closer look.
Though more research needs to be done of course, there are some promising conclusions. Some experts believe that close to 30% of cancer cases can be prevented by a change in diet. The focus has been on vitamins A, E and C, and selenium. But there are only a few good-quality studies that have looked at this. In one, nearly 30,000 poorly nourished Chinese residents took five years of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and selenium supplements. They had a 13% decrease in cancer rates. In another, the risk of prostate cancer was reduced in people with low beta-carotene levels, those with the highest body mass index, those over 70, and daily alcohol drinkers.
There is also preliminary evidence that calcium supplements might help prevent colon polyps and cancer.
In another study, researchers testing selenium and vitamin E on prostate cancer came to these conclusions: vitamin E reduced the risk in people who smoke and those with low levels of the vitamin and selenium. Notably, high doses of vitamin E were linked to a greater risk of prostate cancer in nonsmokers.
These results are promising, but I didn’t include a few studies that did not show a link between cancer and supplements. More research is needed before doctors can recommend supplements to prevent cancer.
2. Immune Function
Nutrients that may impact the immune system include beta-carotene, vitamin E, and zinc. But, reviewing studies from around the world, researchers said that, while a few of them found good effects, others did not — instead, high doses may be unhealthy.
A recent Cochrane review of the world literature concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that antioxidants are beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet some evidence says that taking acetyl-L-carnitine supplements could benefit those with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Heart Disease
Four gigantic studies in the past decade or so have proved that, in fact, vitamins E and C, and beta-carotene do not have an influence on cardiovascular problems, including death. Still, proper nutrition will help keep inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol low.
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