How Dietary Supplements Reduce Health Care Costs

Spending just pennies a day on healthcare can reduce our expenditures by $24 billion over five years.

New research from the Lewin Group has shown that spending pennies a day on a few key nutritional supplements can dramatically reduce sickness and chronic disease — and greatly decrease healthcare expenditures as a result.(i) How did they come to this conclusion? And why haven’t we heard about it?

The Lewin Group looked only at rigorous scientific studies that documented the benefits of nutritional supplements. They used the Congressional Budget Office’s accounting methods to determine the economic impact of supplements. And they kept their analysis specifically to Medicare patients and women of childbearing age.

Today I will review the Lewin Group’s research, explain the remarkable conclusions they came to, and outline the supplements I recommend you take every day if you want to optimize your health and possible reduce health care costs in the process.

Reviewing the Research: Supplements Have Dramatic Health Benefits

Although nutritional therapies can help a broad range of illnesses, the group only looked at four supplements and disease combinations because of the rigor and validity of the scientific evidence available for these nutrients and diseases.

While there are many other beneficial nutritional therapies that have been proven helpful in studies, the ones in this particular study are only those that are unquestionable, beyond scientific doubt, well-accepted, and proven to help. Yet they are also under-used and not generally recommended by healthcare providers. The study looked at:

1. Calcium and vitamin D and their effect on osteoporosis
2. Folic acid and its ability to prevent birth defects
3. Omega-3 fatty acids and their benefits for heart disease
4. Lutein and zeaxanthin and their benefit in preventing major age-related blindness, or macular degeneration

In this study, the researchers were extremely strict and only looked at nutrient interventions that met three criteria.

1. The supplement had to produce a measurable physiological effect.
2. This physiological effect had to create a change in health status.
3. The researchers only looked at health problems where a change in health status is associated with a decrease in healthcare expenditures.

Now, most of us hear the refrain from our physicians that nutritional supplements just produce expensive urine, that you do not know what you are getting, or that there is no scientific proof to support their claims. Based on this study and many others like it, my advice to these doctors is to do their scientific homework. Let’s start by looking at the effects of calcium and vitamin D.

First, I want to point out the vitamin D research referred to in The Lewin Group study is older research. Newer research, as I discussed in my vitamin D blog, suggests that higher doses of vitamin D3, such as 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day, have even greater benefit.

Yet even by focusing only on the older research, this study’s authors determined that providing Medicare-age citizens with 1,200 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D would result in reduced bone loss and fewer hip fractures. The researchers estimated these supplements could prevent more than 776,000 hospitalizations for hip fractures over five years and save $16.1 billion.

Next let’s look at omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent cardiac arrhythmias, improve cell membrane function, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and have many other benefits.

The Lewin Group found that giving the Medicare population about 1,800 mg of omega-3 fats a day would prevent 374,000 hospitalizations from heart disease over five years. The Medicare savings from reduced hospital and physician expenses would be $3.2 billion.

This is pretty convincing data, but it doesn’t stop there. The Lewin Group also analyzed the economic effects of lutein and zeaxanthin–carotenoids that are found in yellow and orange vegetables. I recommend taking them in combination with the hundreds of other carotenoids found in yellow and orange foods.

Taken as supplements, these have been shown to treat macular degeneration, which is the loss of central vision, a major reason people over age 65 require nursing home care. The study found that taking 6 to 10 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin daily would help 190,000 individuals avoid dependent care and would result in $3.6 billion in savings over five years.

Lastly the Lewin Group looked at the effects of taking folic acid. 44 million women of childbearing age are not taking folic acid. If only 11.3 million of them began taking just 400 mcg of folic acid on a daily basis before conception, we could prevent birth defects called neural tube defects in 600 babies and save $344,700,000 in lifetime healthcare costs for these children. Over 5 years, this would account for $1.4 billion in savings.

Taken together, these four simple interventions, which cost pennies a day, could produce a combined savings of $24 billion over five years. This does not even include benefits to people younger than 65 or any of the other benefits of nutritional supplementation, such as improved immunity, cognitive function, and mood.

The Lewin Group’s study is intriguing. The economic impact of investing a few pennies a day in nutritional supplements is compelling. But what’s downright frightening is that studies by the US Department of Health and Human Services prove that the typical American diet does not always provide a sufficient level of vitamins and minerals — meaning we are at greater risk for conditions like those outlined above.

Because of our consumption of low-nutrient, high-calorie foods that are highly processed, hybridized, genetically modified, shipped long distances, and grown in nutrient-depleted soils, many of us are nutritionally depleted.

In fact, a whopping 92 percent of us are deficient in one or more nutrients at the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) level, which is the minimum amount necessary to prevent deficiency diseases like rickets or scurvy — diseases that are the result of not getting enough vitamins and minerals. The RDA standards do not necessarily outline the amount needed for optimal health.

What’s more, our government’s nutrient guidelines ignore the fact that many Americans, because of genetic variations and unique needs, may need higher doses of vitamins and minerals than the RDA. Vitamin deficiency does not cause acute diseases such as scurvy or rickets, but they do cause what have been called “long-latency deficiency diseases.” These include conditions like blindness, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and more.

What all this adds up to is clear. Nutritional supplements do not just make expensive urine. Based on mounting evidence and confirmed by the Journal of the American Medical Association (ii) and The New England Journal of Medicine (iii), I strongly believe that we should all be taking certain basic supplements.

Supplements You Should Take Every Day

Here are the supplements I recommend for everyone:

1. A high-quality multivitamin and mineral. The multivitamin should contain mixed carotenoids, which include lutein and zeaxanthin as part of their mix, as well as at least 400 mcg of folate and a mixed B-complex vitamin.
2. Calcium-magnesium with at least 600 mg of calcium and 400 mg of magnesium. The calcium should be calcium citrate or chelated versions of minerals. Do not use calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide, which are cheap minerals that are poorly absorbed.
3. Vitamin D3, 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day (people who are deficient in vitamin D will need more).
4. Omega-3 fatty acids that contain the fats EPA and DHA, 1,000 to 2,000 mg a day.

The cost is low, the benefit is high, and the risk is non-existent for these nutritional supplements. Not only will you feel better, have better immune function, and improve your energy and brain function, but you will also prevent many problems down the road. So, eat a healthy diet — and take your nutritional supplements every day. It is essential for lifelong vibrant health.

by Mark Hyman, MD

http://www.lewin.com/content/publications/3393.pdf

High Blood Levels of Vitamin E Reduces Risk of Alzheimer's, Swedish Study Finds

High levels of several vitamin E components in the blood are associated with a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in advanced age, suggesting that vitamin E may help prevent cognitive deterioration in elderly people. This is the conclusion reached in a Swedish study published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Vitamin E is a family of eight natural components, but most studies related to Alzheimer’s disease investigate only one of these components, alpha-tocopherol,” says Dr. Francesca Mangialasche, who led the study. “We hypothesized that all the vitamin E family members could be important in protecting against AD. If confirmed, this result has implications for both individuals and society, as 70 percent of all dementia cases in the general population occur in people over 75 years of age, and the study suggests a protective effect of vitamin E against AD in individuals aged 80+.”

The study was conducted at the Aging Research Center (ARC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, in collaboration with the Institute of Gerontology and Geriatrics, University of Perugia, Italy. The study included a sample of 232 participants from the Kungsholmen Project, a population-based longitudinal study on aging and dementia in Stockholm (Kungsholmen parish). All participants were aged 80+ years and were dementia-free at the beginning of the study (baseline). After 6-years of follow-up, 57 AD cases were identified.

The blood levels of all eight natural vitamin E components were measured at the beginning of the study. Subjects with higher blood levels (highest tertile) were compared with subjects who had lower blood levels (lowest tertile) to verify whether these two groups developed dementia at different rates. The study found that subjects with higher blood levels of all the vitamin E family forms had a reduced risk of developing AD, compared to subjects with lower levels. After adjusting for various confounders, the risk was reduced by 45-54%, depending on the vitamin E component.

Dr Mangialasche notes that the protective effect of vitamin E seems to be related to the combination of the different forms. Another recent study indicated that supplements containing high doses of the E vitamin form alpha-tocopherol may increase mortality, emphasizing that such dietary supplements, if not used in a balanced way, may be more harmful than previously thought.

“Elderly people as a group are large consumers of vitamin E supplements, which usually contain only alpha-tocopherol, and this often at high doses,” says Dr Mangialasche. “Our findings need to be confirmed by other studies, but they open up for the possibility that the balanced presence of different vitamin E forms can have an important neuroprotective effect.”

Source: ScienceDaily (July 7, 2010)

Antioxidants Do Help Arteries Stay Healthy

Long-term supplementation with dietary antioxidants has beneficial effects on sugar and fat metabolism, blood pressure and arterial flexibility in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers writing in BioMed Central’s open access journal Nutrition and Metabolism report these positive results in a randomized controlled trial of combined vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 and selenium capsules.

Reuven Zimlichman worked with a team of researchers from Wolfson Medical Center, Israel, to carry out the study in 70 patients from the centre’s hypertension clinic. He said, “Antioxidant supplementation significantly increased large and small artery elasticity in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors. This beneficial vascular effect was associated with an improvement in glucose and lipid metabolism as well as significant decrease in blood pressure.”

Previous results from clinical trials into the cardiovascular health effects of antioxidants have been equivocal. In order to shed more light onto the matter, Zimlichman and his colleagues randomised the 70 patients to receive either antioxidants or placebo capsules for six months. Tests at the beginning of the trial, after three months and at the six month mark revealed that the patients in the antioxidant group had more elastic arteries (a measure of increased cardiovascular health) and better blood sugar and cholesterol profiles.

According to Zimlichman, “The findings of the present study justify investigating the overall clinical impact of antioxidant treatment in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors.”

Source: ScienceDaily (July 6, 2010)

Anti-aging pill shows hope in female infertility

Taking anti-aging pills could improve the chances of conception in infertile women, says a study.

Adrian Shulman, professor of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, has found a connection between the vitamin supplement DHEA, used to counter the effects of aging, and successful pregnancy rates in women.

DHEA is a naturally-occurring steroid found in the brain and plays an important biological role in humans and other mammals. It is a supplement marketed as an anti-aging drug around the world.

In the first study on the effects of the supplement, Shulman found that women being treated for infertility who received supplements of DHEA were three times more likely to conceive than women being treated without the additional drug.

After hearing anecdotal evidence from his patients and the medical community on the benefits of combining fertility treatments with DHEA, Shulman decided to put this theory to test.

He and fellow researchers conducted a study in which a group of women received

treatment for poor ovulation and another group received the same treatment with the addition of the DHEA supplement.

The latter group took 75 mg of the supplement daily for 40 days before starting fertility treatments.

Not only were women who combined infertility treatment with DHEA more likely to conceive, they were also more likely to experience a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

“In the DHEA group, there was a 23 percent live birth rate as opposed to a four percent rate in the other group. Moreover, in the DHEA group, all but one ended in healthy deliveries,” explains Shulman.

Shulman believes that women who are finding little success with their current fertility treatments could look to DHEA to improve their chances of conceiving, said a Tel Aviv University release.

“We recommend that women try this DHEA treatment, in conjunction with fertility treatments, for four to five months,” Shulman says.

The results were recently published in AYALA, the journal of the Israeli Fertility Association.

Read more: http://www.sindhtoday.net/news/2/151788.htm#ixzz0sapqlTBq