Recently, I wrote a sharepost for the HealthCentral menopause site on a recent study about vitamins and older women that I posted on my Facebook page. In that sharepost, I wrote, “The researchers found that the use of multivitamins, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6 and copper were associated with the slight risk of higher mortality. The strongest association was for supplemental iron. However, the use of calcium was associated with decreased risk of death.” One of my friends, Inez, questioned a new study of almost 39,000 older women that found that some vitamin and mineral supplements are associated with a small increase in the risk of death. “I actually am skeptical about this study. Of course you should eat better, but I think a few well-chosen supplements don't hurt,” she said. Another friend, Kaye, chimed in, “I think the point of this study was that supplements alone do not prevent disease or early death. A consistently healthy lifestyle (and diet) is the key.”
I tend to agree with Kaye in that I think we really need to focus on the quality of our diet. And for the record, I also agree with Inez that a few well-chosen supplements probably won’t hurt, but hope that you'll discuss these supplements with your doctor. And I’d also encourage you to realize that taking lots of supplements does not give you a pass on eating a nutritious diet.
So if you need another reason to evaluate your diet and to really consider adding more vegetables and fruit to your plate, here it is. Time.com's Alice Park reported that Canadian researchers have looked at data compiled from more than 27,000 people in order to determine whether environment or genes contributed more to the risk of heart disease. These researchers found that people with a specific genetic variant that is known to increase the risk of heart disease actually showed no increased risk if they ate a large quantity of raw fruits and vegetables. However, other people in the study who had the same genetic variation and who didn’t eat a healthy diet were twice as likely to have a heart attack.
In this study, the researchers reviewed participants’ eating habits and then sorted the participants into three groups based on the type of diet eaten. The first was a western diet, which included eggs, meats, fried foods, salty foods, sugar and desserts. The second type of diet, called the oriental diet, was made up of soy sauce, tofu, pickled foods and green leafy vegetables; in addition, people who followed this diet consumed less sugar. The third type of diet, called a prudent diet, included raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, and some dairy products.
These two groups were then subdivided based on whether a person had the genetic profile that is known to boost heart attack risk by 20%. Park reported, “People in the current study who had the high-risk genes – in this case, two versions of them, one from their mother and one from their father – were two times more likely to have a heart attack if their diet was lacking in fruits and veggies, compared with the ‘prudent’ eaters.”
So the moral of the story is to really stop and shop the produce section of your grocery store (or visit your local farmer’s market). Fill the majority of your shopping basket with different colors of vegetables and fruits, and be willing to try new varieties. For instance, during the past few years I’ve gotten hooked on acorn squash, Swiss chard, arugula and portobello mushrooms. And, depending on where you live, you may still be able to grow your own vegetables in a fall/winter garden. No matter how you do it, please get more produce into your diet and don't become dependent on supplements to get your recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals. Your health will thank you!
Published On: October 27, 2011