Health Watch -- Vitamins and the Elderly

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Could a daily vitamin pill help save billions of dollars?

Providing aging adults with a daily multivitamin pill could save the country billions of dollars, according to a recent study conducted by the Lewin Group, a health-care consulting firm. The consultants reviewed published scientific studies on the effects of vitamins and calculated the potential savings. Vitamins have been shown to help improve the immune system and prevent heart disease and some kinds of cancers, among other benefits.

Improved immune systems to help fight off disease and a lowered risk for coronary artery disease could save about 1.6 billion dollars over a five-year span in health care costs, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, medication and nursing care. Reduced hospitalization for heart attacks that might be prevented by vitamins would save an additional 2.4 billion dollars in five years. Meanwhile, the cost of providing every older adult in the United States with a daily multivitamin pill would be about 2.3 billion dollars for five years.

Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that aging adults are among those who are most likely to need vitamin supplements. Bernadette Latson, a registered dietitian and clinical nutrition faculty member, says most healthy adults who eat a balanced diet probably don’t need supplements, but people with chronic illnesses, people recuperating from illness or injury, people on restricted diets, pregnant women and older adults may need vitamins. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you may need nutritional supplements.