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Claims that vitamins prevent heart disease, cancer debunked

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Washington: Vitamin E and beta carotene supplements do not help prevent heart disease and cancer, the two most fatal diseases in America, a US task force has warned.

In fact, beta-carotene supplements may be harmful because it ups the risk of lung cancer in people who are already at increased risk for the disease, the task force said.

The US Preventive Services Task Force posted its final recommendations 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.

“Cardiovascular disease and cancer have a  significant health impact in America, and we all want to find ways to prevent these diseases,” said 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,” said Moyer.

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,” said 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 judgement and consider their patient’s health history, values, and preferences when having conversations about nutritional supplements,” Lefevre said.

For most people the best way to get important nutrients essential for health is through a balanced diet, the task force said.

Adequate nutrition by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, it said.

The final recommendation statement is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.