Does taking a daily multivitamin result in better health and longevity?
About two years ago, one of my articles described a study correlating the length of a person's DNA, his or her internal, or cellular, age and the person's health. The bottom line was that regardless of the person's actual age, shorter DNA correlated with an older internal age and longer DNA indicated a younger internal age.
Every time a cell replicates, it needs to make a new set of DNA. However, with each replication, a small piece of DNA is lost. This loss of DNA happens at the ends of the strands in a part of the DNA that does not code for any genes. These ends of the DNA are called telomeres. There are only a limited number of cellular replications that happen before important DNA is lost and the cell dies.
Imagine a spool of movie film. There is always blank film at the beginning of the movie and at the end of the movie. Now envision that a small piece of the blank film is removed every time the movie is played. If you played the movie enough times, all of the blank film would be lost and pieces of the movie itself would vanish.
This is similar to what happens to DNA and telomeres. The longer the telomere, the longer the cell can replicate. Telomere length has been hypothesized to be key to health and longevity.
Therefore, longer telomeres are better than shorter telomeres. In humans, it has been shown that telomere length can be improved through lifestyle changes such as stress reduction and exercise. In a recent study at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, taking a daily multivitamin was associated with significantly longer telomeres.
In 586 women, the improvements in telomere length were 5.1 percent in multivitamin users compared to non-users, and that is a lot. In addition, vitamin E and vitamin C seemed to be most important. High dietary intake of vitamin C and vitamin E had a greater effect on telomere length than other vitamins.
The study, which appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is also important because it underscores the effect of good nutrition on health. There is ample medical research indicating that the average American diet is woefully deficient in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and that 10 percent to 15 percent of Americans do not get the minimum recommended amount of vitamins and minerals.
Several years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published research detailing the state of nutrition in American and is was strongly recommended that everybody have a daily multivitamin. With the recent research on telomere length and vitamins, there is increasing evidence that a good multivitamin may have a significant affect on health and longevity.
Contributor to the Daily Hearld, Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D., is medical director for alternative and complementary medicine for the Alexian Brothers Medical Network.