A recent study has stated that if Americans took daily supplements of only three vitamins, they could reduce hospital costs by nearly $20 billion.
The study found that daily vitamin E supplementation by people over 50 and daily use of folic acid and zinc supplements by women of childbearing age could reduce, respectively, the incidence of heart disease, birth defects and low-weight births in a very short time.
Vitamin E reduces heart disease
Scientists found that daily intake of 100 international units (IU) of vitamin E taken during a two-year period could help reduce deaths from heart disease and the incidence of nonfatal heart attacks—and in so doing, reducing hospital and Medicare costs as well. Normal dietary intake of vitamin E (also known as tocopherol) is only about 10 IU per day. Researchers used published reduction estimates (data that predict disease risk) associated with vitamin use and deficiencies to determine the number of reduced hospitalizations.
Folic acid and zinc prevent birth defects
The study also computed the cost of some preventable birth defects and premature births. It is well documented that daily folic acid supplements of 400mcg taken by women of childbearing age can help prevent neural-tube defects and cardiovascular birth defects.
A lesser-known birth defect prevention supplement is zinc. Daily use of a multivitamin that contains 15 to 20mg of zinc could potentially prevent up to 58.8% of all low-weight births. Such premature deliveries cost approximately $2.6 billion in 1995 in the US. Low income women, including pregnant teenagers, have a higher number of preterm deliveries than other women.
Researchers concluded from all the cases they examined that micronutrients associated with improved health are not present in the average American diet, and that only improved diets and regular use of supplements will decrease disease risk.