Getting your vitamins

March 12, 2009 3:20:48 PM PDT
Normally, vitamins and minerals should come from food, not from pills. But as we age, our eating habits decline. A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association says that many middle-aged and older Americans are supplementing their changing diets with supplements. Over half of middle-aged Americans take supplement pills, says the new report.

The study suggests Americans are getting the message about not just living longer, but living healthier longer.

"It shows we're trying to reach our golden years as healthy as possible, and we think that vitamins and minerals will protect us from diseases," said Maudene Nelson, a registered dietician with Columbia University Medical Center.

The report says that older white women are more likely to take the pills. Chinese-Americans had the lowest intake, especially calcium. And Chinese and blacks took fewer supplements than other groups.

On the streets of New York, you have great fruits and vegetables available right on the sidewalk. So do you really need supplements?

Nelson says it's not clear whether supplements or vitamin-rich foods such as these are the primary supplier of these nutrients in people who take the pills.

She says that we all tend to lose our sense of taste and smell as we age, and perhaps eat less and in a less healthy way. To counter that trend, eat more fruits and vegetables. They have roots.

"The more food on your plate with roots and the less with feet is going to be a plate with lots of nutrients studied in this research project," Nelson said.

And if you use a multivitamin, she says, the brand name ones are better absorbed.

Of course, there are many other brand name multivitamins at the drug store. If you take calcium, make sure to take it with a meal, which will reduce your risk of calcium kidney stones. You can vary the fruits and vegetables with nuts and whole grain breads and cereals.


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