"The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) joins the Senate Special Committee on Ageing in deploring any promotional activities that prey on the fears of the elderly or that promise magic bullets," said John Cordaro, president and CEO of CRN.
"On the other hand, the nutritional needs of the elderly are well recognised, and the Federal government is dedicating substantial funding to additional research in this area. CRN is anxious to work with the Senate Committee to ensure that legitimate needs and sound products are acknowledged."
Dr. Annette Dickinson, CRN's vice president for Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, emphasised that the elderly have some special needs that can be met by dietary supplements. "Some dietary supplements have clear benefits for the elderly in supporting nutritional status, improving immune function, and reducing the risk of some chronic diseases. Those eager for appropriate reform should take care not to turn older citizens away from dietary supplements with proven benefit," she said.
Several studies have shown the health benefits of dietary supplementation for the elderly.
A study in France found that taking calcium and vitamin D decreased the rate of bone loss and even increased bone density slightly, and lowered the number of bone fractures by 43 per cent in this vulnerable group.
Studies in nursing homes have documented that many residents do not get enough vitamins and minerals and that such deficiencies can lead to the kinds of symptoms common in these populations, including mental confusion and dementia.
In another study involving people over 65, a multivitamin with minerals decreased illnesses due to infectious disease by 50 per cent and also improved mental function.
Results of various studies suggest that people who use vitamin supplements have a lower risk of cataracts. In Harvard's Physicians' Health Study, it was found that doctors who used multivitamins had a lower risk of developing a cataract and a 21 per cent lower risk of having a cataract operation, compared to doctors who did not use supplements.
The National Eye Institute has found that people with high blood carotenoid levels have a lower risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness for the elderly. Lutein is a carotenoid that is notably concentrated in the macula of the eye.
Numerous studies have shown that three of the B vitamins (folate, B-6, and B-12) lower blood levels of homocysteine, and people with lower levels of homocysteine have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, including both heart disease and stroke.
Researchers in England found that giving vitamin E (400 or 800 IU) to men who had already had a heart attack or angina could dramatically reduce the chance of having a subsequent heart attack. The risk was reduced by 75 per cent.
The risk of hip fracture "increases exponentially in white women, doubling each 5-6 years from about age 40." Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D can reduce the rate of age-related bone loss. Recommended calcium intake for people over the age of 50 is 1,200mg per day, and the vitamin D recommendation is 400 IU per day from age 51 to age 70, and 600 IU after age 70.
"The elderly are often at nutritional risk, and they can benefit from dietary supplements," said Dickinson. "CRN's member companies are committed to providing the American population, including the elderly, with high-quality, well formulated products."
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) is a science-based trade association.