folic acid

  1. Risky vitamins? Don't believe it!

    Based on the recent headlines, you'd think swallowing a vitamin is almost as bad as swallowing razorblades.

    Common, safe nutrients and ordinary multivitamins are being blamed for everything in the book -- and now, a new study claims any number of vitamins will cause women to die early.

    But don't panic, ladies -- because like the other studies that claim vitamins come with risks, this one's not even worth the paper it's printed on.

    First, the details meant to impress and frighten you at the same time: A study of some 39,000 women tracked for 19 years finds that those who took multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, and/or copper had an ever-so-slightly higher risk of death from any cause than women who took no vitamins at all.

    But here are some details that aren't as prominent in the over-the-top coverage of this vitamin panic: The women were asked about their vitamin habits just three times in that 19-year period.

    No one was actually given vitamins or placebos... no one's habits were actually monitored... no one gave blood and the researchers don't even know much about the overall health of the individual women in the study beyond what they reported in those surveys.

    At best, you've got the weakest of all weak associations you could possibly make from an observational study -- but it's actually even worse than that.

    Much worse -- because an analysis by the Alliance for Natural Health finds that the supposed increase in death risk only appeared after some statistical "adjustments" that look to me more like statistical torture.

    For example, women who had a healthy lifestyle and took vitamin C lived longer -- but for that, the credit went to the healthy lifestyle.

    There was a similar adjustment for "healthy eating" despite the fact that only two of the three surveys -- spaced 18 years apart -- even asked about food.

    "(T)he authors just manipulated the data until they got what they wanted and more: Supplements not only didn't help--they were killers!" the ANH wrote in its analysis. "And the lazy, biased, or naïve major media took it from there."

    You can get the "rest of the story" right here.

    Here's the bottom line on vitamins: Over the past 27 years, there have been exactly 11 deaths blamed on vitamin overdose. Medications, on the other hand, killed more than 37,000 Americans in 2009 alone -- making legal drugs the nation's leading cause of accidental death.

    You tell me which is safer.

  2. B vitamins beat dementia

    I know plenty of seniors who would pop pretty much any pill -- risks and costs be damned -- if it meant they'd never have to battle Alzheimer's disease.

    But it turns out they may not have to face any risks at all to get a leg up on dementia -- because the latest research confirms that simple, safe and widely available B vitamins can dramatically slow the rate of cognitive decline.

    Researchers gave 266 men and women older than 70 either a placebo or a blend of B vitamins -- 0.5mg of B12, 0.8mg of folic acid, and 20mg of vitamin B6 -- and tracked them for two years.

    Those who got the real vitamins did 70 percent better on memory tests than those who took the placebo. They improved in just about every way, with real boosts in semantic memory (the memory of facts and concepts) as well as overall global cognition.

    And the biggest boost of all came in "episodic memory," or the part of the mind we use to remember our daily tasks. That's the first part of the mind to go in dementia patients, so you can see why these results are so exciting.

    The good news doesn't stop there: In some cases, patients who were already battling memory lapses before the study actually improved their memory after two years of B vitamins.

    The researchers say the biggest benefits were seen in patients with the highest levels of homocysteine at the start of the study. (Homocysteine is an inflammation marker with strong links to dementia, heart disease, and more.) Those benefits went well beyond anything measured on cognitive tests.

    In fact, patients who took the vitamins had real and visible changes in the physical structure of the brain itself.

    Before I get into that, a little background: All our brains shrink a little as we age. It's a frightening thought, but it's perfectly normal.

    In dementia patients, however, the brains often shrink at a much faster rate -- so researchers believe anything that can slow that loss of gray matter may also slow or stop the disease itself.

    And the vitamins were able to slow that loss of gray matter by an average of 30 percent overall and 50 percent in those with high homocysteine levels -- with one patient seeing a shocking improvement of 500 percent.

    It's clearly too early to say whether B vitamins can stop or even slow Alzheimer's disease. But it's also pretty clear you need more of the Bs than the tiny levels the powers-that-be recommend -- so talk to your doctor today about adding a B complex to your regimen.

  3. "B" is for allergies and asthma

    If you still can't seem to get a grip on your allergy and asthma problems, it may be time to think green.
  4. Study: Vitamin supplements slash macular degeneration risk

    New research shows that a simple vitamin regimen can help you prevent age-related macular degeneration.

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