USPSTF: Not enough evidence on taking supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Tuesday posted its final recommendation statement on vitamin, mineral and multivitamin supplements for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, the Task Force concluded there is not enough evidence to determine the effectiveness of taking vitamins and minerals to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer. 

Many people take vitamins and mineral supplements to improve or maintain overall health. However, this recommendation is limited to use of these vitamins and supplements specifically for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer, USPSTF noted. 

“Cardiovascular disease and cancer have a significant health impact in America, and we all want to find ways to prevent these diseases,” stated Task Force chair Virginia Moyer. “However, we found that there is not enough evidence to determine whether taking single or paired nutrients or a multivitamin helps to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer.”

Additionally, there are two vitamins that the Task Force recommends against using: beta-carotene and vitamin E. “The evidence shows that there is no benefit to taking vitamin E and that beta-carotene can be harmful because it increases the risk of lung cancer in people who are already at increased risk for the disease,” commented Task Force co-chair Michael LeFevre. “Due to the uncertain benefit of vitamin supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer, health care professionals should use their best judgment and consider their patient’s health history, values, and preferences when having conversations about nutritional supplements.”

"The report’s conclusion that there is ‘…not enough evidence…’ for recommendations in the areas of cancer and cardiovascular disease should not be considered as a lack of benefit as there is a big difference between lack of research and lack of positive results," cautioned Duffy MacKay, SVP scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition. "Even with a current gap in the research, what few studies there were that met the USPSTF criteria pointed to a potential promise for cancer protection," he noted. "We strongly support both the need for more research and the need for the scientific community to come to terms with a rigorous approach to studying nutrition that may not reflect the current model of studying drugs."

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