Scientists from Harvard University found vitamin and mineral supplements do not prevent heart disease, cancer, or death.
The research was published in JAMA and conducted by Dr. Pieter Cohen et al.
Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death in the US, and vitamin and mineral supplementation has been believed to help prevent these diseases.
In the current study, researchers aimed to review the benefits and harms of vitamin and mineral supplementation in healthy people to prevent heart disease and cancer.
They wanted to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force about their findings.
The team reviewed 84 studies of vitamin or mineral use among adults without heart disease or cancer and with no known vitamin or mineral deficiencies. More than 730,000 people were examined in these studies.
The researchers found that several studies reported that multivitamin use was strongly linked to a lower risk of any cancer and lung cancer. However, the evidence for multivitamins had important limitations.
Beta carotene (with or without vitamin A) was strongly linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and heart disease death.
Vitamin D use was not strongly linked with death, heart disease, or cancer outcomes. Vitamin E was not strongly linked to death, heart disease events, or cancer risks.
Evidence for benefit of other supplements was equivocal, minimal, or absent.
The team also found that there is limited evidence suggesting some supplements may be linked to a higher risk of serious harm.
For example, hip fracture is linked to vitamin A, hemorrhagic stroke is linked to vitamin E, and kidney stones are linked to vitamin C and calcium.
Based on the findings, the team suggests that vitamin and mineral supplementation was linked to little or no benefit in preventing cancer, heart disease, and death, with the exception of a small benefit for cancer risk with multivitamin use.
Beta carotene was linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and other harmful outcomes in people at high risk of lung cancer.
Other researchers suggest that vitamin and mineral supplements are frequently misused and taken without professional advice.
While taking a general ‘broad-spectrum’ vitamin and mineral supplement ‘just in case’ poses a little health risk and may benefit a person whose diet is restricted and lacks variety, taking vitamin and mineral supplements instead of eating a nutritious diet is not recommended.
It is best to get vitamins and minerals from eating a variety of healthy unprocessed foods. High-dose supplements should not be taken unless recommended under medical advice.
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