The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued a draft recommendation stating that it cannot recommend for or against vitamin and mineral supplements for the prevention of cancer or heart disease. The recommendation is based on the results of a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found no evidence that supplements protect against these diseases.
Research into the risks and benefits of vitamin and mineral supplementation has been ongoing for many years—with plenty of conflicting data. For this most recent analysis, researchers analyzed data from 26 studies published between 2005 and 2013. The studies ranged in size and age range—including anywhere from 128 to 72,000 participants at ages ranging from 22 to 77. The average age for most of the studies was over 50. None of the participants were taking supplements for known nutritional deficiencies.
The researchers found that there was no difference in mortality between people taking multivitamins, placebo pills, or nothing. What’s more, there was no effect of multivitamins on fatal or non-fatal heart disease. Two trials showed a small reduction in new cancers over a 10-year period, but only in men.
The researchers examined single and paired nutrients and found no clear evidence of benefit or harm. Neither vitamin E nor beta-carotene prevented heart disease or cancer and beta-carotene appeared to increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
The researchers concluded that there is no consistent evidence that supplements have an impact on the risk of cancer or heart disease, nor that they affect mortality.
Fortmann SP, Burda BU, Senger CA, et al. Vitamin and Mineral Supplements in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer: An Updated Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Internal Medicine. Published early online November 12, 2013. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00729
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