Inadequate levels of some vitamins can lead to chronic diseases,
including cancer and heart disease. Many Americans get most
vitamins they need from the foods they eat, but deficiencies
involving even one vitamin can lead to problems.
The authors of this report in the Journal of the American
Medical Association reviewed nine vitamins key to preventative
care in adults (vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K; folate;
and provitamin A carotenoids) based on studies published from
1966-2002. The following is a list of health conditions and
vitamins that may alter their progression:
- Osteoporosis: Vitamin D, along with calcium, has been
shown to reduce bone loss and fracture risk in the elderly.
- Heart Disease: Folic acid, B6, and B12 may decrease risk
for heart disease; results from studies on vitamin E preventing
heart disease are less conclusive. Beta-carotene (vitamin
A) may raise risk in smokers.
- Cancer: Lycopene, although technically a non-vitamin
antioxidant, may be superior to vitamin E in helping prevent
prostate cancer. It is found in tomatoes and tomato products.
Folic acid has been shown to decrease risk for colon cancer
in both genders, and breast cancer in women who drink alcohol.
Beta-carotene may increase risk for lung cancer in smokers.
- Birth Defects: Folic acid appears to reduce risk for spinal
birth defects in infants whose mothers take these supplements.
Excessive vitamin A during pregnancy may cause negative
The elderly, vegans, and alcoholics are especially at risk
for inadequate intake of some vitamins. The best natural sources
for these vitamins include: Leafy greens, whole grains, and
fortified grain products for folate; fish, poultry, and legumes
for vitamin B6; fish, eggs, and milk for vitamin B12; citrus
fruits for vitamin C; and margarine, nuts, and salad oils
for vitamin E.
Fairfield KM, Fletcher RH. Vitamins for chronic disease
prevention in adults: Scientific review. Journal of the
American Medical Association 2002:287(23), pp. 3116-3126.
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for more studies on the benefits of good nutrition.