Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Optimial vitamins and essential minerals consumption can extend healthy aging, including curbing chronic diseases, according to a review of nutritional science and lab research.
A Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute researcher found that vitamins and minerals can make up for deficiences among most Americans. The findings were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Diet is very important for our long-term health and this theoretical framework just reinforces that you should try to do what your mother told you: eat your veggies, eat your fruit, give up sugary soft drinks and empty carbohydrates," Dr. Bruce Ames, a senior scientist at the institute, which is affiliated with the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospitals, said in a press release.
But as many as 70 percent of Americans are deficient in one or more of the nutrients spotlighted by Ames. While these deficiencies are not enough to cause diseases such as rickets or scurvy, minor vitamin deficiencies can affect longer-term health.
"Because nutrient deficiencies are highly prevalent in the United States [and elsewhere], appropriate supplementation and/or an improved diet could reduce much of the consequent risk of chronic disease and premature aging," he wrote.
Ames concluded that healthy aging can be extended by ingesting optimal levels of 30 known vitamins and essential minerals. Along with 11 additional substances not currently classified as vitamins, they should be recognized as essential "longevity vitamins."
Most vitamins and minerals are required by hundreds of different enzymes within cells. So, the nutrients needed to maintain day-to-day health, such as vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, play critical roles for enzymes required for long-term maintenance of the body. These include DNA repair, cardiovascular health and prevention of oxidative damage.
When there is a shortage of key nutrients, the body rations them in order to continue functioning properly, though this comes at the expense of longer-term health needs.
"The prevention of the degenerative diseases of aging is a different science than curing disease: It will involve expertise in metabolism, nutrition, biochemistry and genetic regulatory elements and polymorphisms," Ames wrote. "This approach is critical for lowering medical costs."
Other recent studies show these trade-offs can be seen in people with chronic, low-level deficiencies in vitamin K and the element selenium. For example, when forced to ration scarce vitamin K in blood clotting, the body produces fewer enzymes required for keeping arteries clear. This has been linked to higher rates of mortality from cardiovascular disease.
"This may be a theoretical paper, but I hope it can add a few years to everyone's lives," said Ames, who has published more than 500 scientific papers over seven decades on nutrition.