Skip to content

There appears to be a big downside to an all plant diet, which is the possibility of missing essential nutrients that are found in dairy and meat (e.g., vitamin B12, vitamin D3, iron, zinc, choline).

This is especially worrisome if a woman is pregnant (developing baby) and also in children (developing body and brain). Nutrient status is important both before conception and during pregnancy for both a healthy pregnancy and baby.

A recent study looking at vitamin status in women both before conception and during pregnancy in 3 high-income countries found that over 90% of the women had marginal or low concentrations of 1 or more important nutrients: folate (folic acid), riboflavin, vitamin B12, or vitamin D before conception, and many developed vitamin B6 deficiency in late pregnancy.

All women took vitamin supplements containing folic acid, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and iodine during pregnancy. However, one group took supplements that additionally had riboflavin, vitamins B6, B12, and D, zinc. The researchers found that the group with additional vitamins  had higher (better) levels of the nutrients throughout pregnancy.

The study results show that multivitamins should already be taken during the preconception period. Multivitamins should be continued after pregnancy while breastfeeding a baby to maintain adequate levels of essential nutrients.

From Science Daily: Pregnant women are missing vital nutrients needed for them and their babies

Pregnant women are not getting the essential nutrients they and their babies need from modern diets say scientists, who have warned that the situation will likely worsen as more people turn to plant-based foods. ...continue reading "Many Women Have Low Levels of Important Nutrients Before Pregnancy"

All of us want to age well, with as little physical and mental decline as possible. Multivitamins may help. A recent study found that in older adults (over 65 years) taking an ordinary multivitamin daily for at least 3 years is associated with a 60% slowing of cognitive decline. That's huge!

Unfortunately, in this study ingesting cocoa flavanols did not have any beneficial effect. The multivitamins appeared to be most beneficial for persons with heart disease.

What made this study noteworthy were the large number of participants, that there were different groups, and that there was also a control group who got a placebo (in other words - a fake pill). It was an observational study, therefore can't definitely say cause and effect, but still... those are nice results.

From Medscape: Multivitamins, but Not Cocoa, Tied to Slowed Brain Aging

Taking a daily multivitamin for 3 years is associated with a 60% slowing of cognitive aging, with the effects especially pronounced in patients with cardiovascular (CVD) disease, new research suggests. ...continue reading "A Daily Multivitamin Linked to Slower Brain Aging In Older Adults"

Another study has found that the most common vitamin and mineral supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C), don't offer hoped for health benefits, and may actually carry some risks. This latest study was a review of other studies, and examined whether specific vitamins or minerals would  lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and strokes) and death from any cause (referred to as all cause mortality"). [Posts discussing other research finding problems with supplements.]

In general, the review of studies of popular supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C) show no consistent benefit (no significant effect) for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, or stroke, nor any lowering of death (all cause mortality). On the other hand, folic acid and B-vitamins with folic acid, B6, and B12 reduced stroke (folic acid showed a 20% reduction in stroke), but niacin and antioxidants were associated with an increased risk of death from any cause (10% increase). But overall the effects in the studies were small. Vitamin D did not show any benefits in reducing death, but the researchers pointed out that many vitamin D studies are now under way, and the results of vitamin D studies so far are mixed (e.g. 16 showing positive effects from vitamin D, 17 showing a more favorable effect in the control group, and 10 neither).

On the other hand, the researchers stressed that eating a well balanced diet has lots of health benefits and is recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Three dietary patterns are frequently discussed as beneficial: 1) a healthy American diet (sometimes called a "prudent diet") low in saturated fat, trans fat, and red meat, but high in fruit and vegetables, 2) a Mediterranean diet, and 3) a vegetarian diet. All 3 of these diets are rich in fruits and vegetables (which means increased fiber), are relatively rich in vitamins and minerals, and meet Dietary Reference Intake guidelines.  ...continue reading "Study Finds No Benefit From Most Supplements"

An article that discusses why supplements containing large doses of antioxidants, or beta-carotene, or even vitamin megadoses  doesn't work, and can even cause harm, while eating actual foods such as fruits and vegetables has many health benefits. This is what a number of the studies I've been posting also found (especially with health benefits from eating fish and not from fish oil). go ahead and throw out the megadose supplements, and instead eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Remember fruits and vegetables contain a complex mix of nutrients and feed our microbial communities, as well as having microbes on them. From Medical Xpress:

Forget the antioxidant pills; just stick with veggies

Why just stick to eating fruits and veggies when you can get an extra boost from supplements that put good things like antioxidants into a handy pill? And that seems like it should be a good idea. If the antioxidants that occur naturally in our food, like broccoli and carrots, are good for us, a supplement with the same thing must also be good. But that's not quite true.

Antioxidants are touted as protectors of our health because they eliminate free-radicals that damage molecules in cells and tissues by grabbing electrons from them, making those molecules, in turn, unstable....On this basis, a group of scientists proposed in 1981 the creation of a nutritional supplement to fight free-radicals. They reasoned that since many observational epidemiological studies had shown that people who eat lots of vegetables are at lower risk of colon cancer, heart disease and many other bad conditions, then the "active" ingredient should be identified and put into a pill. They thought that it must be beta-carotene, which helps make carrots orange, because it's an antioxidant.

But in the late 1980s, two intervention trials, one in Seattle and the other in Finland, started....For the Seattle trial, approximately 18,000 men and women were randomized in 1988 to receive either a tablet containing beta-carotene or a tablet containing no active ingredient, which is the famous placebo. The plan was to follow the men and women for 10 years; the researchers hypothesized they would observe a lower lung cancer risk in the beta-carotene tablet group, hopefully much lower. But the opposite happened and the trial had to be stopped early because the beta-carotene group suffered significantly more cases of lung cancer than the placebo group. The same thing was seen in the Finland trial. Importantly, the amount of beta-carotene in the tablet was much higher than occurs naturally in the body in both trials.   ...continue reading "Forget the Pills, Eat the Vegetables Instead"

An assortment of vitamin and health articles from the past year. (Note: Some other major Vitamin D study results were posted earlier this year, as well as today - search Vitamin D). Whether one should take vitamins is still being debated, with the most support being for supplementation with Vitamin D (specifically D3).The first summary is from

Taking vitamin D with the largest meal improves absorptioncally D3) and results in higher serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Many patients treated for vitamin D deficiency fail to achieve an adequate serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] despite high doses of ergo- or cholecalciferol. The objective of this study was to determine whether administration of vitamin D supplement with the largest meal of the day would improve absorption and increase serum levels of 25(OH)D.... it is concluded that taking vitamin D with the largest meal improves absorption and results in about a 50% increase in serum levels of 25(OH)D levels achieved. Similar increases were observed in a wide range of vitamin D doses taken for a variety of medical conditions.

 The following are all from Science Daily:

Long-term daily multivitamin supplement use decreases cataract risk in men, study finds

Long-term daily multivitamin supplement use may lower cataract risk in men, according to a study of nearly 15,000 male physicians. Half took a common daily multivitamin, as well as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene supplements. The other half took a placebo. The researchers followed the participants to identify how many participants in each group developed new cases of two common eye diseases: cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Results showed a 9 percent decrease in risk for those that took the supplements.

Taking B vitamins won't prevent Alzheimer's disease, researchers conclude

Taking B vitamins doesn't slow mental decline as we age, nor is it likely to prevent Alzheimer's disease, conclude researchers who have assembled all the best clinical trial data involving 22,000 people to offer a final answer on this debate. When looking at measures of global cognitive function -- or scores for specific mental processes such as memory, speed or executive function -- there was no difference between those on B vitamins and those receiving placebo to a high degree of accuracy.

Children who drink non-cow's milk are twice as likely to have low vitamin D

Children who drink non-cow's milk such as rice, almond, soy or goat's milk, have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood than those who drink cow's milk, according to a new study. In North America, every 100 millilitres of cow's milk is required to be fortified with 40 units of vitamin D. Adding vitamin D to non-cow's milk, however, is voluntary.

Vitamin E intake critical during 'the first 1,000 days'

Amid conflicting reports about the need for vitamin E and how much is enough, a new analysis published today suggests that adequate levels of this essential micronutrient are especially critical for the very young, the elderly, and women who are or may become pregnant... "It's important all of your life, but the most compelling evidence about vitamin E is about a 1000-day window that begins at conception," Traber said. "Vitamin E is critical to neurologic and brain development that can only happen during that period. It's not something you can make up for later." Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin E -- nuts, seeds, spinach, wheat germ and sunflower oil -- don't generally make the highlight list of an average American diet. 

Vitamin D deficiency linked to higher risk of cardiovascular, cancer death

Analysis of pooled data showed a strong association between low vitamin D levels and risk of death in general death from cardiovascular diseases, death in from cancer, at least in older people with a history of cancer. "Going into our study, the effect of vitamin D supplementation on risk of death was not clear," said the lead investigator. "Our analysis confirms the protective nature of this substance especially in elderly patients."

High-dose vitamin D for ICU patients who are vitamin D deficient does not improve outcomes

Administration of high-dose vitamin D3 compared with placebo did not reduce hospital length of stay, intensive care unit length of stay, hospital mortality, or the risk of death at 6 months among patients with vitamin D deficiency who were critically ill, according to a study.