When seeking to get healthier, one of peoples’ first tasks is to hunt down a worthy multivitamin supplement to add to their regime. It’s supposed to be the best way to get glowing skin, improved overall health, and enhanced cognitive function…right? Unfortunately, wrong.
According to a large-scale study recently presented at a forum by the University of Colorado Cancer Center, consuming too many vitamins increases one’s risk for cancer. And as the number of US Cancer cases is expected to rise by 55%, it’s a finding everyone should be paying attention to.
Co-author of the study Tim Byers, MD, MPH explained his research at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Annual Meeting held at the university. His evidence supported the finding which determined over-the-counter supplements to increase cancer risk if taken in excess.
“We are not sure why this is happening at the molecular level, but evidence shows that people who take more dietary supplements than needed tend to have a higher risk of developing cancer,” Byers said in a statement released by the center.
Published first in The Journal of the American Cancer Institute in May of 2012, the original paper was a meta-analysis of 20 years of published studies on supplements and over-the-counter vitamins.
After observing that people who ate more fruits and vegetables had lower rates of cancer, the research team sought to investigate the potential health benefits of vitamins and minerals. They then investigated if taking supplements and vitamins yielded the same effect. What they found is that contrary to improving health, taking too many supplements increased the risk of cancer and other fatal diseases.
Co-author Byers said in a statement, “We found that the supplements were actually not beneficial for their health. In fact, some people actually got more cancer while on the vitamins.”
When one trial was conducted exploring the effects of beta carotene supplements, findings showed that taking more than one recommended dosage increased the participant’s risk of developing both lung cancer and heart disease by 20%. Folic acid, which was thought to help reduce the number of polyps in a colon, actually increased the number in another trial.
Authors of the study warned against consuming high amounts of vitamins past the recommended daily amount, notably vitamin E tablets, beta-carotene, and folic acid.
This is not to say that people need to be afraid of taking vitamins and minerals,” stated Byers. “But there is no substitute for good, nutritional food,” concluded Byers.
Opposite of Byers statement, however, researchers at the National Institute of Health are confused about where Americans got the idea they should take a daily multivitamin for better health in the first place. “It’s not from the doctors,” said Regan Bailey, a nutritional epidemiologist of the NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. “The majority of scientific data available does not support the role of dietary supplements for improving health or preventing disease.”
In the study, the need for regulation in the supplement industry was noted as a public health issue:
“There is now evidence that high doses of some supplements increase cancer risk. Despite this evidence, marketing claims by the supplement industry continue to imply anticancer benefits. Insufficient government regulation of the marketing of dietary supplement products may continue to result in unsound advice to consumers. Both the scientific community and government regulators need to provide clear guidance to the public about the use of dietary supplements to lower cancer risk.”
Stated Lederman, medical advisor to Forks Over Knives, “The average person shouldn’t just take a multivitamin thinking that it will enhance their health. There is no proof that multivitamins have any benefit for most people, and there is scientific proof that they may cause harm. For example, vitamin A, beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, selenium, and vitamin E are all healthy when you eat them in food, but they have been shown to be dangerous when consumed in supplements. Instead of listening to the marketing claims by the supplement industry, focus on eating whole plant foods to get the essential vitamins and nutrients you need.”
We totally concur.
And according to the authors of the original meta-analysis, “In our view, the better “insurance” would be to eat food with a broad coverage of nutrients and take no supplements at all, unless they are deemed necessary to fix a specific medical problem.”
Clearly, a multivitamin will never match the potential unprocessed, whole foods can offer.
If this finding is concerning to you, be sure to counsel with your naturopathic physician or open-minded doctor to determine the best course of action for you and family’s optimal health.
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