Healthy, Older and wise – Nutritional approaches

* Vitamin E is an antioxidant that enhances immune function, and protects against cancer, heart disease, diabetic retinopathy and kidney disease. Very high doses (1800 IU/day) may reverse diabetic retinopathy and kidney disease (Diabetes Care, 1999; 22: 1245-51). Daily dosage: 200-800 IU

* Vitamin C, another protective antioxidant, helps prevent cancer and heart disease (Clin Invest, 1993; 71: 3-6) as well as enhances wound-healing, collagen production and immune function (Altern Med Rev, 1998; 3: 174-86). Best taken with cofactors such as bioflavonoids and rutin, or other antioxidants. Daily dosage: at least 1 g

* B vitamins in the form of 400 mcg/day of folic acid can lower homocysteine levels, thus preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart attack, stroke and possibly Alzheimer’s (Can J Cardiol, 1999; 15 [Suppl B]: 35B-8B), and adding vitamin B12 (500 mcg/day) may boost the effect. Together, they can reduce homocysteine by 25-33 per cent (BMJ, 1998; 316: 894-8). Take as part of a B-complex formula. Daily dosage: 400 mcg (folic acid), 50-100 mcg (B12), 500 mg (B5), 50 mg (other B vitamins)

* Carotenoids are antioxidants that can slow the ageing process and treat age-related diseases; some 21 kinds have been identified in human blood. Beta-carotene enhances immune function and lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease when 25,000-50,000 mg/day is taken (FASEB J, 1995; 9: A436). Lycopene, abundant in processed tomato products, but also available as a supplement, is the most prevalent blood carotenoid. It can lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (Arch Ophthalmol, 1995; 113: 1518-23) – as can lutein and zeaxanthin (Am J Clin Nutr, 1995; 62 [6 Suppl]: 1448S-61S) – and help prevent or slow the progression of prostate cancer (J Natl Cancer Inst, 1995; 87: 1767-76). Daily dosage: 15 mg

* Vitamin D is an important nutrient for the prevention of many diseases of old age, including brittle bones (N Engl J Med, 1992; 327: 1637-42) and some cancers. Those who spend a lot of time indoors may be deficient. Supplement with vitamin D3, the natural form of this vitamin. Daily dosage: the daily reference intake (DRI) for older people is 600 IU, but have your levels assessed first as too much can be just as damaging as too little

* Minerals such as manganese, zinc, selenium and copper assist antioxidant enzymes in the body. Zinc is especially important as levels decline with age, often due to a reduced efficiency of the thymus gland. This can lead to immune deficiency, impaired wound-healing and a lowered resistance to infection. Daily dosage: 30 mg of zinc with 2-3 mg of copper

* Coenzyme Q10 can also help protect against oxidation and age-related diseases. This antioxidant is essential for energy production in the mitochondria, especially in the heart. Daily dosage: typically 50-100 mg; for those with cancer, heart disease or immune disorders: 100-400 mg

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