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Can Supplements Promote Health and Prevent Disease

It is a very good question to ask if supplements can prevent disease and the government has already done some extensive research in this regard. It was all motivated by the surgeon general who in 1988 said "For the two out of three adult Americans who do not smoke and do not drink excessively, one personal choice seems to influence long-term health prospects more than any other: what we eat."

There was an extensive and expensive study done trying to prove that supplementation could actually save lives. Every year, Americans suffer a heavy burden of disease that is potentially preventable, including 14 million cases of heart disease, 1.2 million cases of preventable cancer, more than half a million strokes, 16 million cases of diabetes, 28 million cases of chronic lung disease and over 285,000 low birth weight babies.

The point is that this study which cost so much landed up proving that supplementation can prevent diseases and the proof is rather conclusive. There are many different studies that could be quoted here but only two have been selected.

The first one is a study looking at the question if all women of childbearing age used multivitamins with folic acid, it should be possible to reduce the current incidence of neural tube birth defects by 50 percent or more. (MMWR 1992) In 1992, there were 4600 babies born with neural tube defects, representing hospital costs of $141 million. The estimated lifetime cost of caring for a person with spina bifida is $258,000. (Bendich 1997)

The last one was also shown to be conclusive was dealing with the question if pregnant women used multivitamin containing zinc; it should be possible to reduce substantially the number of babies born with low birth weight (LBW). Currently about 280,000 LBW babies are born each year. The average hospital charge for LBW is $86,000, for an annual cost of $2.6 billion for 1995. About half of that cost ($1.3 billion) was paid by Medicaid.

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