Should we take vitamins? An article appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2006; 103(47): 17589-94) discusses the importance of taking vitamin supplements to prevent DNA damage, cellular aging, degenerative diseases and even cancer. The need for supplementation is due to the fact that so many people consume nutrient-deficient processed foods. The body survives nutrient deficiency by allocating nutrients to keep vital cellular functions going. Long-term, deficiencies set the stage for degenerative diseases. The article cites evidence of nutrient deficiencies leading to diseases, like cancer, that appear late in life.

Other research, appearing in the November 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at vitamin D levels and aging. The researchers compared telomere length with vitamin D levels in  2,160 women between the ages of 18 and 79. Telomeres are a part of the chromosome, and they tend to shorten with age. Long telomeres are associated with slower aging. High vitamin D levels were associated with longer telomeres. Low vitamin D is also associated with poor mood and cognition in older individuals. Research appearing in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (2006; 14(12): 1032-1040) looked at 40 subjects with mild Alzheimer’s disease and 40 subjects without dementia and compared cognition and mood to serum vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels were associated with poor cognitive function (according to the Short Blessed Test) and poor mood.

Low vitamin E levels  are associated with physical decline, according to research appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (January 23, 2008 Volume 299, Issue 3, Pages 308-315), which measured nutrients in older individuals. The researchers looked at 698 individuals living in Tuscany, averaging 73.7 years of age. A baseline examination was given and the individuals were followed for three years. The Short Physical Performance Battery includes three objective tests for physical function and was used to measure physical performance. The researchers found two things related to physical decline: low vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) levels among people aged between 70 and 80, and being older than 81.