Multivitamins & Optimal Health
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | October 1, 2002

"We recommend that all adults take one multivitamin daily." The recommendation doesn't seem all that unusual until you realize that it's the conclusion of two Harvard physicians and researchers. The medical community has taken a long time to recognize that supplementing the diet with vitamins and minerals may benefit their patients. The two papers written by these authors in the June 19, 2002, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) may begin to convince physicians and other healthcare professionals that supplementation is necessary to prevent chronic disease (1-2).

The first article examines almost 40 years of the scientific literature to see what vitamins may be associated with chronic disease. This is not vitamin-deficiency disorders such as scurvy or beriberi; these are diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer that may be the result of poor nutritional intake. They review studies that indicate that folic-acid deficiencies may result in increased cardiovascular disease and neural-tube defects such as spina bifida. They also found that vitamin E and lycopene may decrease the risk of prostate cancer, and vitamin D taken with calcium may prevent fractures.

In the second article, the authors give the justification for taking a multivitamin. First, the primary sources of vitamins are fruits and vegetables. Better Life Unlimited has always recommended at least 5-8 servings per day, and we still do. Sadly, only 20-30% of the population eats enough plant material daily. Second, the preparation and handling of food after cooking may reduce vitamin content as well--especially vitamin C and folic acid. Finally, special conditions such as chronic alcohol intake and aging increase the need for certain nutrients such as vitamin B12.

There may be at least one more reason why food may not contain all the vitamins it should. While we have a wonderful food-distribution system, very few foods are eaten fresh. Apples are picked in the fall and are stored for distribution throughout the following summer. The same is true for potatoes and other vegetables--they don't have the same vitamin content when we buy them as they did when they were fresh. Even more important than the lack of vitamins is the deterioration of phytonutrients, substances that work by themselves and with vitamins to give the body the organic chemicals it needs to prevent disease. These plant chemicals, such as lycopene, ellagic acid, and quercetin, break down after the fruit or vegetable is picked.

The authors exhort physicians to discuss nutrition with their patients. Given how busy physicians are, that may or may not happen. But you can certainly let your physicians know what supplements you are taking. If they don't think it's necessary, print this Newsletter and ask them to read the articles cited in the References below. It's their peers who are making the recommendation, not you.

If you're going to supplement, be sure to pick a supplement made with organic plant materials and especially one that contains whole-plant concentrates. While these scientific articles lay the foundation for supplementing with vitamins, ongoing research is showing that phytochemicals are as important. You can wait for the entire medical field to catch up, or you can begin to take a quality product today.


  1. Fairfield, KM and Fletcher, RH. Vitamins for Chronic Disease Prevention in Adults: Scientific Review JAMA. 2002. 287:3116-3126.
  2. Fletcher, RH and Fairfield, KM. Vitamins for Chronic Disease Prevention in Adults: Clinical Applications JAMA. 2002. 287:3127-3129.
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