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Issue 88: Healthy...for Pennies a Day?

The headline of Dr. Mark Hyman’s article reads, “How Dietary Supplements Can Save You Thousands.” Here’s an overview of this fascinating article:

The good doctor tells his readers that The Lewin Group has presented research that shows how spending mere pennies a day on a few key nutritional supplements can dramatically support health. Likewise, the Lewin Group says these supplements can also greatly decrease healthcare expenses—to the tune of about $24 billion over five years. 

You might be wondering how they came to this conclusion. In short, the Lewin Group pored over rigorous scientific studies that documented the benefits of nutritional supplements. They found amazing results, too.

What might be just as interesting is that they used the Congressional Budget’s Office accounting methods to determine the positive economic impact of certain supplements. They focused their analysis specifically on Medicare patients and women of childbearing age.

While many nutrients can help support health, the Lewin Group looked at four kinds of supplements that had rigorous and valid scientific evidence available. In fact, Dr. Hyman says that the supplements in this particular study are only those that are “unquestionable, beyond scientific doubt, well-accepted and proven to help support health.”

The supplements studied included: calcium and vitamin D and their support of bone health, folic acid and its benefits to growing a healthy baby, omega-3 fatty acids and how they can support a healthy heart, and lutein and zeaxanthin’s ability to support eye health. Here’s what they found:

Medicare-age citizens gleaned bone health benefits from 1,200mg of calcium and 400IU of vitamin D (although recent recommendations call for about 2,000IU of vitamin D a day). The researchers estimated that more than 776,000 hospitalizations for hip fractures could be prevented, saving $16.1 billion over five years.

Moving on to folic acid… The Lewin Group states that 44 million American women who are of childbearing age are not taking folic acid. They say that if only a fraction of those women—11.3 million to be exact—began taking just 400mcg of folic acid on a daily basis before conception, there would be healthier babies at birth. Over 600 babies would be born healthy and that would save $344,700,000 in healthcare costs. Over five years, that translates into $1.4 billion saved.

Omega-3s support a healthy heart, cellular health, healthy inflammation and healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The Lewin Group said that giving the Medicare population about 1,800mg of omega-3s a day could prevent 374,000 hospitalizations over five years, and reduce hospital and physician expenses by $3.2 billion.

Now for the eyes…lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in yellow and orange veggies. In supplement form, they also support eye health. The Lewin Group found that taking 6 to 10mg of lutein and zeaxanthin daily could help 190,000 people (especially those over 65) support healthy vision and result in a $3.6 billion savings over five years.

Altogether, these supplements (which cost only pennies a day) could create a whopping $24 billion savings over five years.

Perhaps it’s time to start putting those pennies to good use: saving billions. Now that’s an impressive return on your investment.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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