The American systematic review, by the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) noted that two trials had both found that multivitamin use may lower the overall incidence of cancer in men, but the overall data is insufficient to confirm that such supplementation is beneficial.
“The results of vitamin supplementation trials have been disappointing at best, despite having a solid mechanistic basis,” wrote the authors.
“One explanation for this result could be that the physiologic systems affected by the vitamins and other antioxidant supplements are so complex that the effects of supplementing with only one or two components is generally ineffective or actually does harm.”
Only half the story
However, The CHC’s Carl Gibson, disagrees.
“The review in question only looked at studies that researched generally healthy people, avoiding any instances of targeted use of nutrients,” Gibson said.
“In addition, the researchers only looked at studies where supplements were the primary source of prevention, without other healthy lifestyle choices, like exercise and proper sleep, to prevent chronic disease.
“In fact, given the results from the Physicians’ Health Study—and from a large number of studies that this review failed to include—the very fact that there is some level of evidence for a simple multivitamin in preventing cancer in healthy people is extremely encouraging.”
The study Gibson cited, published last November on JAMA, reported that daily a multivitamin may reduce the risk of cancer by 8%.
“Given that more than 1.6m new cancer cases are diagnosed in the US each year, this translates to about 130,000 cancers prevented each year, and with it are the healthcare costs and human suffering,” Prof Balz Frei, of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, told our sister site, NutraIngredients-USA, at the time.
“This study should finally answer all the doubters out there who still think vitamin supplements have no value. And it further confirms they are completely safe to take.” Frei was commenting independently of the study.
On the back of the new report, Gibson suggested that more work must still be done to nail the issue.
“If anything, this study highlights the need for academics, government and our industry to support and fund further research to determine the benefits of taking complementary medicines.”