This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
A study conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that taking a daily multivitamin could help you live longer.
Researchers examined end segments on DNA strands, called telomeres, which shorten a little each time a cell divides. Telomere length may be a marker for aging, since shorter telomeres have been linked with an increased risk of death and chronic diseases, especially heart disease and cancer. That’s because, as telomeres shorten, the cell either no longer divides, or divides with DNA errors.
In the NIH study, women who took a daily multivitamin had, on average, 5.1 percent longer telomeres, the equivalent of approximately 9.8 additional years of life.
The multivitamin may help because it reduces oxidative damage and inflammation, researchers said. Telomeres are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. And inflammation induces oxidative stress and lowers the activity of telomerase, the enzyme that that is responsible for maintaining telomeres.
Because vitamins C and E, B vitamins (especially vitamin B12 and folic acid) and specific minerals can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, they may be useful for the maintenance of telomere length. In fact, vitamins C and E have been shown in cell cultures to slow telomere shortening and increase cellular life span.
Other things also known to preserve telomere length are vitamin D, exercise, astragalus (a longevity tonic fromIndia) and resveratrol, the plant compound found in wine and grapes that is now well-known for its anti-aging benefits.
The anti-aging bottom line: A good multivitamin can be your main defense against aging and chronic disease. In this study, the multivitamin provided more than 50 percent of the total intake for most vitamins and minerals, making it a major source of these nutrients.
 Xu Q et al. Multivitamin use and telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1857-63. [Epub ahead of print.]