Vitamin and Mineral Supplements May Do More Harm than Good, Study Finds

Vitamin and mineral supplements have become a big business, with many people turning to them for various health benefits. However, recent studies have shown that taking these supplements may do more harm than good, particularly in regards to cancer risk. This article will review the findings of a recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which looked at the relationship between vitamin and mineral supplements and cancer risk.

Risk of Cancer Increase with Vitamin Supplements

The BMJ review found that taking vitamin and mineral supplements does not reduce cancer risk and may even increase it. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that a combination of beta-carotene and vitamin A increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers and workers with occupational exposure to asbestos by 28%. 18,314 smokers, ex-smokers and asbestos-exposed workers participated in the study. Over a four-year period, participants were assigned a combination of 30 mg of beta-carotene per day and 25,000 IU of retinol (vitamin A) or a placebo. At the end of the study, lung cancer rates in the active treatment group were compared to those in the placebo group. All told, smokers and workers occupationally exposed to asbestos increased their risk by nearly 30%. The researchers concluded: “After an average of four years of supplementation, the combination of beta-carotene and vitamin A had no benefit, and may even have adverse effects, on lung cancer incidence and risk of death from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.”

Research Findings and Recommendations

Other studies have also suggested this worrying association. The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study reported an 18% increased relative risk in smokers compared with smokers who were not randomized to receive beta-carotene (20 mg/day). However, research on the topic is mixed. For example, the Mayo Clinic highlighted a study of 22,000 male doctors, some of whom were smokers or former smokers, who found that beta-carotene supplementation did not increase lung cancer rates. These people took 50 mg of beta-carotene every other day for 12 years. “If you smoke, have a history of smoking, or have been exposed to asbestos, you should not take large amounts of beta-carotene supplements for extended periods of time,” advises the Mayo Clinic. The health agency continued: “However, foods rich in beta-carotene are considered safe and appear to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and possibly heart disease.” Beta-carotene imparts color to yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. It is converted into vitamin A in the body, so it can perform the same function as vitamin A in the body.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, the Department of Health and Social Care advises that “you should be able to get the beta-carotene you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.” If you do decide to take beta-carotene supplements, it’s important not to take too much, as it can be harmful. The recommended dosage is not more than 7 mg of beta-carotene per day unless your doctor recommends it. People with a history of smoking or exposure to asbestos should avoid taking large amounts of beta-carotene supplements for extended periods of time. It is important to consult a doctor before starting any supplement regimen.

Does taking vitamin and mineral supplements reduce cancer risk?

Recent studies have shown that taking vitamin and mineral supplements does not reduce cancer risk and may even increase it. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a combination of beta-carotene and vitamin A increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers and workers with occupational exposure to asbestos by 28%.

What is the recommended dosage of beta-carotene supplements?

The recommended dosage is not more than 7 mg of beta-carotene per day unless your doctor recommends it. It is important to consult a doctor before starting any supplement regimen.

Is it safe for smokers or those exposed to asbestos to take beta-carotene supplements?

If you smoke, have a history of smoking, or have been exposed to asbestos, you should not take large amounts of beta-carotene supplements for extended periods of time. It is important to consult a doctor before starting any supplement regimen.

Are foods rich in beta-carotene safe to consume?

Foods rich in beta-carotene are considered safe and appear to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and possibly heart disease. Beta-carotene is found in yellow and green (leaf) vegetables such as spinach, carrots, and peppers, and yellow fruits such as mangoes, papayas, and apricots.

Can I get the beta-carotene I need through my diet?

Yes, according to the Department of Health and Social Care, you should be able to get the beta-carotene you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

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