Evidence is lacking that vitamin supplements prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease, panel finds

Person buying vitamins.
Person buying vitamins. Photo credit Getty Images

You may want to rethink why you are taking vitamins and supplements every morning, as a recent review of 84 studies has found that they do little to nothing to prevent cancer, stroke, or heart disease.

The review was completed by the Jama Network, and its conclusion led to an independent panel of experts for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force announcing that they could not recommend vitamins or supplements one way or the other when it comes to preventing stroke, heart disease, or cancer.

The panel went on to say that it could not make a decision on what to recommend due to "insufficient evidence" that taking them made a difference.

The Jama Network review looked at the impacts of beta carotene, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc, while also examining vitamins A, B, C, D, and E when coming to its opinion.

While the review found no benefit, the guidance from the task force did say that its recommendation doesn't apply to children, people with known nutritional deficiencies, or those that are chronically ill. In addition, a daily folic acid supplement is recommended for those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy.

This decision comes more than eight years after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force last gave its recommendations on vitamins and supplements possibly helping prevent heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Part of the reasoning behind the updated guidance is an additional eight years of large-scale studies for scientists and health experts to look at, according to Dr. Jenny Jia.

Jia is an instructor of general internal medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She co-authored the editorial piece published alongside the review and in it called buying vitamins and supplements "wasted money."

With the additional research and longer studies, Jia said, "we're still not seeing any convincing proof that vitamins and supplements in general are helping with prevention of heart disease and cancer."

According to the review, dietary supplements are a massive industry in the U.S., with Americans spending nearly $50 billion on them in 2021.

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