VITAMINS DON'T CUT INFECTION Daily supplements of multivitamins and minerals do not prevent respiratory, stomach, skin and other infections in the elderly, researchers said last week in BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal).

An estimated 10 percent of people 70 or older are thought to have a vitamin or mineral deficiency that may lead to poor immunity, increasing their risk of infection.

"In a group of [600] older people mostly living at home and in their seventies, a typical vitamin and mineral supplement didn't have an effect on the number of days of infection they had over the course of a year," said Alison Avenell of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

The scientists said the findings did not mean that supplements would not affect other medical problems. "There are specific medical reasons why people might need to take supplements," said Avenell.

FOLATE: TAKE IT Pregnant women who lack the B vitamin folate in their blood are more likely to have a baby with low birth weight, a study in the British Journal of Nutrition says.

Folate, found in green leafy vegetables, cereals and liver, is essential for fetal growth.

Women are already advised to take folic acid supplements, before conceiving and during pregnancy, to reduce the risk of birth defects.

Researchers examined folate levels in red blood cells for nearly 1,000 pregnant women and looked at lifestyle data. Higher folate levels in women were linked to increased birth weight, a marker for good health in infancy and beyond.

-- From News Services