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Lack of Evidence on Supplements’ Role in Cancer Prevention

By jeremyc | December 26, 2013

The US population spends around $12 billion a year on mineral and vitamin supplements, and around 50 percent of the country’s population takes some form of dietary supplement.  A recent review, however, suggests that these supplements have fewer benefits than initially thought. It found insufficient evidence to support claims that supplements may prevent heart disease, cancer, or even death.

Two recent studies were also reviewed to update the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) 2003 recommendations. These studies showed that vitamin supplements did offer some level of protection against cancer, but there was no such benefit for women. According to the researchers that conducted the review, there was insufficient evident to recommend the use of multivitamins or vitamins A, C, and E with antioxidants and/or folic acid for preventing cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Before this review, the USPSTF did suggest that beta-carotene supplements should not be used alone or with other vitamins because they were found to harm smokers and others with a high lung cancer risk. Out of the studies reviewed, 26 specifically focused on the harms and benefits of mineral and vitamin supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and cancer.

The authors concluded, “We found no consistent evidence that the included supplements affected CVD, cancer, or all-cause mortality in healthy individuals without known nutritional deficiencies.”

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