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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


The Road to Better Nutrition ..and Reduced Health Care Costs

By Michael McBurney

The CDC Healthy Aging Program released a Health Aging Data Portfolio focusing on adults 50-64y or ≥65y. The number of people living in America who are over 65 years of age is expected to double to 72 million over the next 25 years. One of the factors driving this growth is the baby boomer population. The other is that people are living longer.  Click here to see state statistics.

The growth of an ageing population, even if healthy, will drive health care costs. In the US, health care costs represent 17.6% of the gross domestic product. Although there are recent reports of substantial short-term improvements in the financial outlook of Medicare, ageing populations will further challenge economic budgets. Addressing nutritional inadequacies is an important means to help maintain health throughout life (and reduce nutrition-related health costs).

While dietary intake surveys are helpful, under-reporting is an issue. Data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC-Norfolk) study shows that the methods used by researchers to aggregate data affects conclusions. These vagaries make it more difficult to divine the best nutrition policy to mitigate disease risk.

As outlined in “The Road to Good Nutrition”, malnutrition is avoidable.  There is a growing need for assessments of the economic costs of suboptimal nutrition. In addition, policy makers need national surveys, like the CDC’s Second Nutrition Report with comprehensive biochemical assessments of the nutrition status of populations at all ages. This type of data will help policy makers make informed decisions when developing nutrition priorities and policy to contain nutrition-related health care costs.

Foods should be our first source of nutrients. However, adequate nutrition is more important than the means by which nutrients are obtained: natural foods, organic foods, enriched foods, processed foods, fortified foods, or dietary supplements. Yesterday, at the CRN Workshop and Day of Science, Dr Howard Sesso, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School said, “Multivitamins remain a safe, inexpensive option for disease prevention.” Let’s hope policy makers are listening because the clock is ticking.


Curfman GD, Morissey S, Drazen JM. High-value health care – A sustainable proposition. 2013 NEJM doi:10.1056/NEJMet1310884

Blendon RJ, Benson JM. The public and the conflict over future medicare spending. 2013 NEJM doi:10.1056/NEJMsr1307622

Lentjes MAH, McTaggart A, Mulligan AA, Powell NA, Parry-Smith D, Luben RN, Bhaniani A, Welch AA, Khaw K-T. Dietary intake measurement using 7 d diet diaries in British men and women in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer-Norfolk study: a focus on methodological issues. 2013 Br J Nutr doi:10.1017/S0007114513002754