The following study, from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was reported in the news media recently:  Multivitamin Use and Telomere Length in Women.

Telomeres are structures at the end of chromosomes which protect genetic information against degradation, and so are thought to be associated with longevity.

In the conclusion to the article’s abstract (see link above), the authors state:  This study provides the first epidemiologic evidence that multivitamin use is associated with longer telomere length among women.

They noted specific correlations with vitamin E and vitamin C, which held true even for women who did not take supplemental vitamins.

While it sometimes appears that science works hard to validate common sense, I think that there is great value in studies such as this one.  But we must be careful about the conclusions, in many ways.

It is safe to say that there are many aspects of good diet which are beneficial for all living creatures.   Wherever possible, we must strive to eat well, in a very broad-based way.

While total calories, adequate (but not excessive) protein, healthy grain carbohydrates, good fats, and adequate intake of vitamins and minerals have been the hallmarks of our thinking about good nutrition, in recent years other aspects of nutrition have emerged.

I am now thinking specifically about the “information” present in nutrition, which helps our bodies regulate genetic expression and therefore influence almost every aspect of our daily functioning.  This “information” takes the form of various chemicals, called “phyto-nutrients” or “phyto-chemicals” (“phyto” refers to being plant-based).

These phytonutrients are found primarily in the colored pigments of fruits and vegetables.

3/20/2011 — Very low-level radiation has been detected in milk and spinach grown within a 20 mile zone from the disabled nuclear reactor in Fukushima, Japan, including Cesium 137 and Iodine 131.  While nothing can be done about the Cesium, in any case, the levels are not considered high enough to be of significant concern.

A couple of days ago, newspapers in the US reported detection of Iodine 131 in air samples in California, but at exceedingly minute doses (as would be predicted).

At this time, there is no need for any of us to alter our supplement practices.

While continued awareness and monitoring is certainly necessary, barring some dramatic deterioration in the situation in Japan, we in this country are not at  any acute risk.

As the news media has reported, there has been a “run” on commercially available iodine.  This is panic-buying and could be counter-productive for the people of Japan, for example, should there be need to ship large quantities of iodine supplements to protect that country.

3/15/2011 — The biggest immediate danger to North America, from the nuclear catastrophe unfolding in Japan, is currently estimated to arise from the pools of spent nuclear fuel rods stored in each reactor building.  Owing to systems failures, these pools  may not be adequately cooled and could conceivably catch fire, which would result in the release of nuclear isotopes into the atmosphere.

The prevailing winds are to the east, meaning that they would head out towards the Pacific coast of the United States.  The amount of radiation reaching the US would depend on the then current wind and weather conditions, but would presumably dissipate to a significant degree before reaching us, owing to the distance involved.  However, like the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago, the effects would spread across the globe, but would be the most significant nearest the source of the radiation leak.

The composition of the radiation would also depend on the type of fuel rods and their age.  In particular, the presence of radioactive Iodine 131 would become progressively less significant as the rods age.  By 2 months, the iodine would have decayed into harmless isotopes.  But the heavier elements, such as Cesium, uranium, and in the case of one of the spent fuel pools, plutonium, would remain problematic for a very long time.  There is no known way to prevent damage from these heavier radioactive elements except to avoid the exposure.

Damage from radioactive iodine can be mitigated by taking in Potassium iodide by mouth prior to and during exposure.  The organs that readily take up iodine (most notably the thyroid) will be less likely to take up radioactive iodine if they have already taken in significant quantities of potassium iodide by mouth.

For the many of you that are now taking Iodoral as part of the iodine program,  or who took it in the past for at least several months, you are probably already protected, although should a significant exposure occur, we would add a higher dose for a short time (see link in the next paragraph).

For those of you who have never taken iodine supplements, I would strictly follow the CDC guidelines for the use of Potassium iodide.

What I do not know at this point is how much danger is to be expected from radioactive iodine from the Japanese reactors.  This may be significant, or it may be next-to-nothing.

At this time, no one should alter their present supplement programs.  I do not know if there will be any need for us to do anything.  I will continue to post information as if becomes available if it influences possible prevention strategies.