Two leading UK newspapers, The Daily Mail and The Independent ran the same report this weekend quoting Professor Bruce Ames' recent statements at the American Association for Advancement of Science's conference in Boston. 

'Vitamin deficiency may cause modern ills' (The Independent)
'How taking a vitamin pill a day could slow the ageing process' (The Daily Mail)

Steve Connor of the UK Independent newspaper reported that a chronic shortage of vitamins and other "micronutrients" in the diet may be responsible for triggering many of the ills of modern life such as cancer, obesity and the degenerative diseases of ageing.

Professor Bruce Ames, of the University of California, Berkeley, who invented one of the standard tests for cancer-causing chemicals, said many people's diets were deficient in one or more of the 40 micronutrients essential for a healthy life.

Taking dietary supplements in the form of vitamin pills could help to counteract many of the disorders associated with ageing, Dr Ames told delegates at the American Association for the advancement of Science meeting.

He continued saying that "many people on a high-calorie diet in the West or a poor diet in developing countries, were short of micronutrients and this caused the body to go into an emergency "triage" response in which it tried to keep its metabolism in balance by a process of compensation. This might ensure immediate survival, but the consequences are an increase in DNA damage, which causes future cancers, a lowered immune defence, and a decay of the mitochondrial "power plants" of the cells, which causes accelerated ageing," he said.

He concluded by saying that a shortage of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients could also play a part in obesity.

The Daily Mail goes further detailing that low magnesium intake has been linked to bowel cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis, while lack of vitamin D is associated with breast, bowel and prostate cancers.

Calcium deficiency has been associated with diabetes-lack of potassium to heart disease, and low vitamin B12 intake is linked to multiple sclerosis.

Lack of nutrients may also accelerate ageing itself, with Dr Ames's own work showing that over-the-counter dietary supplements can boost both energy and memory in elderly rats.

Dr Ames, of the Children's Hospital Oakland in California, said it was likely our bodies make the best use of vitamins and minerals when they are scarce.

When in short supply due to poor diet, nutrients are ploughed into keeping the body going in the short-term - at the expense of a healthy old age.

But he claimed decades of initiatives to improve people's diets had failed and it might be "easier to convince them" to take cheap vitamin pills instead.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he acknowledged that taking too many vitamins can cause illnesses.

But he said that the benefits to public health far outweighed the risks.


Friday 15th February 2008
Saturday, 16 February 2008

ANH Comment:
Dr Bruce Ames,
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, and a Senior Scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), is one of many scientists who have long argued, on the basis of ample scientific evidence, that micronutrient deficiencies, associated with modern western diets, are one of the most important factors in the epidemic of chronic diseases. These diseases include the